Veteran music educator Walter Bitner is the Director of Education & Community Engagement for the Richmond Symphony. He has led a multi-faceted career as a teacher and performer: a multi-instrumentalist and singer, he is also a teacher, composer, and conductor conversant with a wide variety of musical styles and traditions. Walter has been a performing musician since childhood; he began his career as a boy soprano singing in school and church choirs and began to study piano at the age of seven. His work as a choral singer continued for many years into his twenties, and he has sung in symphony choruses under many directors including Michael Deane Lamkin, Robert Summer, Julius Rudel, and Robert Shaw.
He continued his piano study into college (where he also studied conducting and music education), and had performed many solo and chamber music recitals by his mid-twenties. During his teens and twenties he was also active as a jazz pianist, performing both solo and in small clubs in Tampa and Gainesville, Florida, and in metropolitan New York City. In 1992 he began to focus on Renaissance and Baroque repertoire, engaging in private study on recorder with Steve Silverstein (New York Pro Musica, Music For A While) and on lute with Pat O’Brien (Mannes, Juilliard) in New York City. From 1996 – 2000 he recorded and performed throughout Florida on lute and recorders as a soloist and as a member of The Tampa Bay Early Music Consort, with Carl Klein, harpsichord and organ, and Theresa Villani, cello and viola da gamba.
He conducted members of The Florida Orchestra in his first orchestral concert at the age of 21, and directed hundreds of student performances – instrumental and vocal music, as well as plays, musicals, and traditional dance – in his many years of teaching.
Walter served as Music Director or Performing Arts Director at private schools in New York, Florida, and Nashville 1991 – 2007. From 2008 – 2014 he taught at Nashville School of the Arts, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ arts magnet high school, where he successively directed the school’s piano, choral, and orchestral programs. Walter holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Charter Oak State College, Connecticut, and he completed his teacher certifications training at Belmont University in Nashville. He is licensed to teach both Vocal and Instrumental Music, grades K – 12, by the State of Tennessee.
From 2014 – 2019 he served as Director of Education & Community Engagement for the Nashville Symphony, where he established the award-winning Accelerando program designed to prepare gifted young students of diverse ethnic backgrounds for pursuing music at the collegiate level and beyond.
A summary of Walter’s many music and music education activities in Nashville 2004 – 2019 maybe be found here. He began to serve as Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Richmond Symphony in August 2019, and in the summer of 2020 he founded the Richmond Symphony School of Music.
Walter is Conductor Emeritus of Music City Youth Orchestra, which he founded and directed from 2007 – 2012, and he serves on the National Advisory Board of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. As performing musician or ensemble director, he has collaborated or performed with a wide variety of artists over the last four decades including Pete Seeger, Tracy Silverman, Jeff Coffin, Ryan Middagh, The Chieftains, Music City Baroque, The Tampa Bay Master Chorale, The Florida Orchestra, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, the Nashville Symphony Chorus, the Nashville Concerto Orchestra, and the Richmond Symphony.
Walter maintains memberships in the following organizations:
American Choral Directors Association
American String Teachers Association
Early Music America
The League of American Orchestras
Music Teachers National Association
Virginia Music Teachers Association
Richmond Music Teachers Association
National Association for Music Education
and the Lute Society of America