Walter Bitner

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The Firebird

Image credit: snob.ru, Wikimedia Commons, veche.razved.ca

It is 1980, and I am 14 years old. I don’t know exactly when this happened but I feel sure it was in the summer or fall. I am standing before the record player I had received for Christmas a few years earlier, in my adolescent lair in the basement of my parent’s house in Camillus, New York. The turntable could be rotated on its side to hide within the wooden cabinet in which it was housed when not in use, and the spindle could accommodate up to 6 LPs at a time (by the time of this memory I had learned never to do this, with the hope of preserving the quality of my record collection as long as possible).

I have just unwrapped the 3 LP set Yessongs from its plastic shrink wrap and set the needle down on the record at the beginning of side A of the first LP. Yes was my favorite rock band when I was in high school (they still are) and I have saved up money from several weeks of early mornings on my bicycle delivering newspapers to buy this, only the second triple album in my collection (the first was Keith Jarrett’s Solo Concerts Bremen / Lausanne).

As I marvel at the stunning artwork by Roger Dean that not only adorns the cover but in fact nearly every surface of the package, what I hear at first are the sounds of an arena crowd anticipating a Yes concert to begin – Yessongs was the band’s first live album. But when the music begins, it isn’t Yes at all – instead I hear the tender horn solo over quiet tremolo chords in the strings that begins the Finale of Igor Stravinsky’s 1910 ballet score The Firebird.

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Violins of Hope Come to Music City

Nashville Symphony music director Giancarlo Guerrero fields questions from reporters ~ Violins of Hope press conference, September 12, 2017, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click photos to enlarge)

On Tuesday, September 12, the Nashville Symphony hosted a press conference at Schermerhorn Symphony Center to announce the city-wide collaboration effort to bring the world-famous Violins of Hope to Nashville in the spring of next year.

A diverse array of local organizations – including the Nashville Symphony, Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Nashville Public Library, Nashville Ballet, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Vanderbilt University, Blair School of Music and many more – will bring this rare collection of instruments – the majority of which were played by Jewish musicians interned in concentration camps during the Holocaust – to Nashville from Israel in mid-March 2018.

Restored and refurbished by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein, the Violins of Hope will be the centerpiece of a months-long initiative designed to foster a city-wide dialogue on music, art, social justice and free expression.

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$10 Tickets for All Students: SOUNDCHECK 2017-18

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Registration is now open for the Nashville Symphony’s SOUNDCHECK student access ticket program for the 2017-18 season, beginning with our performances of Firebird, Winger & Watts, September 14 & 15. SOUNDCHECK provides $10 tickets to select Nashville Symphony performances for ALL students, K – 12 through university and graduate school.

NEW THIS SEASON:

SOUNDCHECK TICKETS are available to students for purchase NOW for eligible Nashville Symphony concerts (listed below) September – December 2017. (In previous seasons, SOUNDCHECK tickets were only available for purchase beginning two weeks prior to each applicable concert.)

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2017 Gateways Music Festival

(l to r) William Johnson, Patricia Silva Weitzel, Anthony Morris, Evan Cannon after a performance at Gateways Music Festival, Rochester City Hall Council Chambers, August 11, 2017 (click all photos to enlarge)

Last month I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Gateways Music Festival in Rochester, New York. Now in its 24th year, Gateways connects and supports professional classical musicians of African descent, and brings more than 50 solo, chamber, and orchestral performances to the Rochester community during the week of the festival. This was my first time attending a Gateways festival, and I was excited to witness several of the performances, meet friends and colleagues from around the country (and beyond), and make new ones.

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What Your Students Will Remember

Nashville School of the Arts Choir students backstage before a performance, February 19, 2013, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click photos to enlarge)

At some point early in my teaching career someone told me:

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

…or something like that. I don’t remember who said it or when, honestly. Someone might have quoted it at a faculty meeting, or as part of a motivational speech at a workshop or professional development training, or I might have read it in a book or article. Various paraphrases of this proverb exist, purportedly from a number of people including the great Maya Angelou, but the wisdom of the internet currently attributes the first known utterance of this quote to a Mormon official named Carl W. Buehner.

It doesn’t matter who said it. This idea arrived on the scene for me early in my career, and made me begin to seriously consider: what would ultimately be the impact I made on my students? What would the experience they had in my classes, in my program, have on the rest of their lives? What would they remember?

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My Top 21 Posts in the First 100,000 Views

Yesterday Off The Podium passed 100,000 total views since I posted my first article Leitmotif in Mahler’s Ninth Symphony on March 3, 2015.

Now, 2 ½ years and 148 posts later, Off The Podium has accumulated over 100,000 views from over 64,000 visitors – an average of a little over 1.5 views per visitor.

It seems like a statistical milestone, so in honor of this nonevent and to mark its passing I have assembled here a list of my 21 most popular posts, ranked by total number of views. All but one of these Top 21 articles are about music or education, and most are about both.

A big and sincere thank you to everyone who reads Off The Podium! Your encouragement has contributed to the success of my blog, and of my fledgling career as a writer.

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Peaking at Totality

 

Total Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2016, Nashville, Tennessee ~ photo by Isa Bitner (click photos to enlarge)

 

 

It’s a once in a lifetime event. A total solar eclipse passed over Nashville today, and the city’s population reportedly doubled briefly as approximately a million people arrived in the area from out of town to witness it. Parties were scheduled all over town, with commercial opportunities galore as eager consumers snapped up eclipse glasses, eclipse t-shirts, beer brewed especially for the eclipse, cocktails crafted for the eclipse, eclipse mugs and growlers and tote bags and ball caps and smart phone apps. Experts across the country shared astronomic data and compiled essential playlists. The Atlantic reprinted Annie Dillard’s superlative 1982 essay Total Eclipse.

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Accelerando Begins Year Two

Nashville Symphony Accelerando Program Second Class (L-R) — McKane (Max) Robinson, Angelina Bautista, Riya Mitra, & Xayvion Davidson ~ photo by Sally Bebawy (click photos to enlarge)

Thursday afternoon we held a reception for returning students and families in the Nashville Symphony Accelerando program to welcome four new students and families who join Accelerando this fall. It was truly exciting and heartwarming to spend some time celebrating with these talented, motivated young musicians, and officially mark the beginning of new year of working together.

Yesterday’s reception brought to a close the long and thorough audition process that began with initial auditions on March 4, semifinal auditions in April, and finalist trial lessons over the summer. We are very proud of these fine young musicians and what they have already accomplished!

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Martha Argerich: The Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon

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When Deutsche Grammophon released a box set of Martha Argerich’s complete recordings for their label in September 2015, I coveted it immediately, eventually succumbing to temptation and purchasing it for my CD library. This summer I made a project of slowly listening to all 48 CDs in order of release, savoring each recording and listening to many of them several times. OK, most of them.

Just in case you’re not a classical pianist, or slept through the last fifty years, Martha Argerich is widely regarded as one of our greatest living pianists, and certainly as one of the most important classical artists of the post-WWII era.

Which makes this stupendous collection – a wide-ranging survey of all of her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon and Philips spanning 55 years from 1959 to 2014 – perhaps the single greatest collection of recorded classical piano music in history. It’s astounding.

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New York 2017, New York 2140

Lower Manhattan from the Williamsburg Bridge, Brooklyn, July 11, 2017 (click photos to enlarge)

 

 

What a beautiful ruin it will make!

~ H.G. Wells,
on first seeing the Manhattan skyline

Last month we traveled to New York for our summer vacation –  a combination of seeing old friends and introducing our teenage daughter to the city. My wife and I lived in the New York metropolitan area for nearly 5 years in our late twenties: formative years. Our first child was born there. Although I have been back a number of times since we moved away in 1995 (several times for work) and seen old friends and colleagues before, it has been a decade or more since I saw many of them – more than 20 years since I have seen some, and since we really had the time to simply roam about Manhattan.

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