Walter Bitner

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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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Accelerando Begins Year Three

Nashville Symphony Accelerando 2018-2019 ~ photo by Sally Bebawy (click photos to enlarge)

 

Earlier this month we held a reception for returning students and families in the Nashville Symphony Accelerando program to welcome seven new students and families who join Accelerando this fall. It was an exciting occasion at which we celebrated these talented, motivated young musicians, and officially marked the beginning of new year of working together.

The reception brought to a close the long and thorough audition process that began with initial auditions on March 3, through semifinal auditions in April and May, and finalist trial lessons over the summer. We are thrilled to welcome these fine students into the program!

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Expanding Educational Horizons Through Technology

Michael Tilson Thomas (Music Director, New World Symphony) with Aalia Hanif, Accelerando student, April 2018 (click photos to enlarge)

New World Symphony & Nashville Symphony Accelerando:
A Unique Partnership

I first met Cassidy Fitzpatrick, Vice President for Musician Advancement at New World Symphony, at the 2016 League of American Orchestras Annual Conference, held that year in Baltimore, Maryland. Cassidy approached me after a session where I had spoken about the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program, introduced herself, and we made arrangements to speak soon after.

This is how a number of important projects I’ve been involved with over the last few years have germinated – through an initial “chance” meeting at a conference. That crucial first conversation has led to a robust and thrilling partnership for the Nashville Symphony Accelerando program, now entering its third year.

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Blair School of Music: Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2018

Adult Chamber Music Institute 2017, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

 

Following up on their success last summer, Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music will host the second Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute in July. This special four-day program is the only one of its kind in our area (as far as I know) – a unique opportunity for adult amateur string players to come together and make music in an intimate setting with the guidance of some of the finest string music educators in Nashville.

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Voices of Hope

 

On March 26, the Nashville Symphony in partnership with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission presented Voices of Hope, the Second Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival. This special, free education and community event was designed and presented this year as part of Violins of Hope Nashville.

Voices of Hope convened student choirs from local public schools, private schools and religious organizations under the direction of Dr. Tamara Freeman, an internationally acknowledged Holocaust ethnomusicologist. Dr. Freeman worked with each choir and director individually in the weeks and months leading up to the event. All of this preparation culminated in the festival: a day of rehearsals and a free performance open to the public.

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SphinxConnect 2018

 

Last month I traveled to Detroit, Michigan for the 6th annual Sphinx conference – SphinxConnect – and 21st annual Sphinx Competition. SphinxConnect was held this year at the downtown Detroit Marriot at the Renaissance Center. This was the third year in a row I have attended the conference and competition, and my second as a speaker.

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Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2018

2018 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Sean Yang, Luke Turner, Maggie Kasinger, Joshua Stanczak, Shawn Zheng ~ photos by Kathleen Munkel (click to enlarge)

Last month the Nashville Symphony hosted our annual Curb Concerto Competition for students ages 14-18. The first round of the competition took place on Saturday, Februrary 24 and the finals round occurred on Sunday afternoon, February 25, which resulted in the selection of this year’s winner, who will perform with the Nashville Symphony at the annual Side By Side Concert with Curb Youth Symphony on May 15. The 2018 Side By Side Concert will be conducted by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, as it was last season. Reserve tickets to this special free concert here.

This year’s contestants included 18 fine young musicians from across Tennessee: 7 violinists, 4 pianists, 3 flute players, 2 cellists, and one student each on horn and alto saxophone. Both rounds of the competition took place on the stage of Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

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Collaboration: The Association of British Orchestras Annual Conference 2018

Wales Millenium Center (click images to enlarge)

Continued from
Three Days in London

It was the second week of September, 2017 – the week after Labor Day here in the U.S., which is the traditional opening week for orchestras across the country. In Nashville, we were preparing for our Symphony Gala – a grand, festive event that opened our season this year with the incomparable John Williams conducting the Nashville Symphony in a concert of his own works. Symphony offices were already bustling with activity in preparation for this and so many other aspects involved in kicking off the new season.

I was already in a state of excitement when an email arrived in my Inbox from Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras inviting me to speak at their upcoming conference in Cardiff, Wales.

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Accelerando Auditions 2018

Accelerando students with John Williams, September 8, 2017, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (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 2018.

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 nine students to a total of sixteen students in 2018-19. Please help spread the word about this unique, ground-breaking program and help us find these students!

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