Walter Bitner

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The Accelerando Overture

Nashville Symphony Accelerando Ensemble under the direction of Enrico Lopez-Yañez rehearses on the stage of Laura Turner Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, June 3, 2019 (click images to enlarge)

During the first week of June 2019, the Nashville Symphony hosted the 74th annual National Conference for the League of American Orchestras. This exciting event brought approximately 1200 orchestra staff from across North America, Europe, and beyond for four days of conversations, presentations, concerts, and more.

The League’s Education and Community Engagement constituency – EDCE staff at member orchestras from across the country and beyond – is one of the most active, and it has been my privilege to participate in sessions at several previous conferences with my colleagues. As it was our turn to host these activities this year, we focused a spotlight on the Nashville Symphony’s innovative Accelerando program.

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Inspiration and Music Education

Nashville School of the Arts Early Music Consort performs at Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, May 13, 2013 (click images to enlarge)

 

In the contemporary climate of data-driven education, you don’t hear much about inspiration in the popular rhetoric about music education and its role and purpose in the lives of children. But in fact the music teacher’s most important responsibility is to inspire her students.

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Unsolicited Advice

 

 

Photo by SHTTEFAN on Unsplash

This time of year I find myself attending many public events to mark and celebrate student accomplishments and transitions: award ceremonies, banquets, graduations. Due to my position, experience, reputation, (age? time of life?) – for whatever reason, I am increasingly being asked to speak at some of these events.

I always wonder what I should say. What do people want to hear? Why would anyone take my word for it?

At a ceremony I attended this week, several teachers – who were giving out awards to graduating seniors – gave what they described as unsolicited advice to those assembled, and I thought about what I believe it would be important to tell others about how to live their lives, if I were the sort of person who felt the impulse to do this.

This is what I came up with, on short notice.

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Blair School of Music: Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2019

Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2018, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

 

For the third year in a row Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music will host the  Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute in July. The only program of its kind in our area, this four-day celebration of chamber music brings together adult amateur string players with some of the finest string music educators in Nashville. It’s an exciting opportunity for chamber music enthusiasts that continues to grow in popularity and program offerings each year:

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The 2019 Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival

The Nashville Symphony presents The Third Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival, Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, director. March 25, 2019. (click images to enlarge)

 

On Monday, March 25, 2019 the Nashville Symphony was thrilled to host The Third Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival at the hall under the direction of Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and Director of Choral Activities at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Six choirs from Middle Tennessee public high schools gathered for a day of music making with each other and Nashville Symphony musicians, which culminated in a performance for family and friends at the end of the afternoon.

A wonderful time was had by all!

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Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2019

2019 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Jaime Kim, Luke Turner, Jocelyn Hartley ~ photos by Kathleen Munkel (click to enlarge)

 

As we have done each winter for more than twenty years, the Nashville Symphony hosted our annual Curb Concerto Competition for students ages 14-18 last month.

The first round of the competition took place on Saturday, Februrary 23 before a panel of Nashville Symphony musicians who selected three finalists. These three young soloists then proceeded to the finals round which was adjudicated by a different panel that took place the following afternoon, February 24. This year’s winner will perform with the Nashville Symphony at the annual Side By Side Concert with Curb Youth Symphony on May 7. The 2019 Side By Side Concert will be conducted by Nashville Symphony Assistant Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yańez.

Nineteen superlative young musicians from across Tennessee and beyond competed in this year’s competition: 6 flute players, 4 violinists, 3 pianists, 2 clarinetists, 2 saxophonists, and one student each on cello and bassoon. Both rounds took place on the stage of Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

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Accelerando Auditions 2019

Xayvion Davidson, bassoon & Angelina Bautista, oboe perform at the Accelerando Spring Recital, June 11, 2018. (click images to enlarge)

Beginning next week, Nashville Symphony EDCE staff will hold a series of public information meetings for students interested in auditioning this year for the symphony’s award-winning Accelerando program. Students selected through this year’s audition process will join the program in August 2019.

Founded in 2016,  Accelerando is designed to prepare gifted young students of diverse backgrounds to pursue music at the collegiate level and beyond. Accelerando seeks to create professional opportunities for musicians from ethnic communities underrepresented in today’s orchestras by providing them with instruction, mentorship, performance experience and assistance applying to music schools. With access to the resources of a major American orchestra, these students will be able to realize their full potential and will form the next generation of orchestra musicians.

We are seeking to grow our current enrollment of sixteen students to a total of twenty students in 2019-20. Please help spread the word about this unique, ground-breaking program and help us find these students!

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Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony: 2018 Review

Nashville Symphony Brass Quintet Education Ensemble performs at Dan Mills Elementary School, September 26, 2018: (l to r) Alec Blazek, trumpet; Patrick Walle, horn; Neil Konouchi, tuba; Derek Hawkes, trombone; Patrick Kunkee, trumpet. (click photos to enlarge)

 

Happy New Year! 2018 was a whirlwind, packed with education and community engagement activities at the Nashville Symphony. This is a look back at some of the highlights of our department’s programming last year, before we take off full steam ahead into the new year!

 

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2018: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Posing with the philosophers at the British Museum, January 22, 2018 ~ from Three Days in London

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

Here is my annual review of Off The Podium, in which I share some thoughts, highlights, and statistics for 2018. Sometimes this blog is a little all over the place, hence the title.

The past year was turbulent, with a lot of activity for me personally as well as in the department of Education and Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony. Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of the department with the world, and to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – these features of Off The Podium reach thousands of readers all over the world and have brought me into contact with many musicians and educators I would otherwise have had no opportunity to meet or correspond with.

Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support.

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My Secret Experiment in Music Education

Music City Youth Orchestra rehearses on the stage of the Polk Theater, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville, May 10, 2010

Continued from: Is Music a Sport?

In June 2007, I founded Music City Youth Orchestra with Tracy Silverman and a group of ten students, and I served as MCYO’s music director and de facto executive director until I resigned in August 2012. For more than five years, MCYO occupied my attention nearly every day as I worked to grow and develop the ensemble artistically: I conducted all of the orchestra’s auditions, rehearsals, and performances, chose and arranged repertoire and prepared it for rehearsal, contracted venues, generated publicity, recruited students, soloists, and adult musicians and educators to assist us. I recruited board members and we established the organization as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; I filed paperwork, conducted meetings, sought funding, and served as the organization’s sole administrator for the first four years of operation. During most of this time I was concurrently both a full-time high school teacher and attending graduate school. It was an exciting and exhausting time.

What many do not know – I never articulated this plainly to anyone while I was involved with MCYO, and only came clean about this in conversations with a few former MCYO students and friends in recent years – is that during those five years I pursued a secret educational agenda in my work with the students. Music City Youth Orchestra was the grand experiment of my teaching career in which I put to the test some of my most deeply held convictions about the value and promise of music education in the lives of children.

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