Walter Bitner

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Meet the Artist, A Workshop with Tracy Silverman

130 students from 22 Richmond Public Schools Elementary Schools participated in Meet the Artist: A Workshop with Tracy Silverman on March 10, 2020, Dominion Energy Center, Richmond (click images to enlarge)

 

On Tuesday, March 10, internationally renowned electric violinist Tracy Silverman visited Richmond for workshops and performances with Richmond Public Schools students and with the students of Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program.

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Making Music During the Pandemic

This article posted today, March 17, 2020, on my ChoralNet blog. I think it’s worth reposting here.

 

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These are uncertain times. The current COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives, and we are facing a period of time in which much of what we did regularly – our daily and weekly routines – has been impacted.

For choral singers and choral directors, this means the cancelation of classes, rehearsals, performances, services, and the other activities of our lives that involve gathering together to make music. These social activities now on hiatus are in many cases the reason we got into this work – making music with others is a kind of lifeline, a way to connect with not only others and the world, but with the deepest, internal parts of ourselves. (more…)

Man’s Life’s a Vapor

Man’s Life’s a Vapor, unknown artist, early 1990s ~ I found this among other documents from my years at Blue Rock. It was drawn by a student and given to me by his or her teacher (the teacher supplied the title). Note the scissors, and the deep hole that the protagonist is about to fall into. (click images to enlarge)

A miniature, a concise meditation on the precarious and impermanent nature of human existence.

There is not a lot to say about this song. Man’s Life a Vapor is fittingly brief, as are my comments. (more…)

Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) 2020

Richmond Symphony Principal Flute Mary Boodell demonstrates her instrument during a performance by the Principal Woodwind Quintet at Rural Point Elementary School, Mechanicsville, Virginia, February 27, 2020 (click images to enlarge)

 

Many of my students will never make it to see a group of musicians perform, so I think the most valuable thing they learned was what instruments sound like in real life, as opposed to just a recording. I can play videos of musicians all day, but it’s still just a video.

~ local school teacher after a MAP performance

 

One of the most wide-reaching and robust programs we produce, the Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) curates, develops, rehearses, and performs over 125 concerts each season in metropolitan Richmond area schools. Although many in our community may be unaware even of the existence of this program, it nonetheless fulfills a vital aspect of our music education mission, introducing more than 45,000 children to classical music and the instruments of the orchestra every year.

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Ho! Young Rider

Image by Dieter_G from Pixabay ~ click images to enlarge

This song, whose origins are shrouded in obscurity, was hands down the most popular song that I ever taught to children.

When I arrived at Blue Rock School to begin my tenure there in February 1991, Ho! Young Rider was already the student favorite, and in my memory, I learned this song from the students themselves within the first couple of weeks I worked there – in a bit of table-turning I asked the students to teach me songs they already knew so I could sing with them. Ho! Young Rider was first on that list. I soon added a guitar accompaniment and through repetitions in my music classes that spring arrived at the format in which I would teach this song to children for the next fifteen years.

 

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As I Went Over Tawny Marsh

Loch Vennachar, Perthshire, by Harold Sutton Palmer (1854-1933) (click images to enlarge)

 

This gem, beloved by my choirs, was one of my favorite canons to teach to and sing with children, and a staple of my children’s choir repertoire for many years. I first came across it the early 1990s in a book I can’t find right now, a little red book of traditional songs in English used for students of English as a foreign language at schools in twentieth century continental Europe. I taught As I Went Over Tawny Marsh to my students at Blue Rock School and at most of the other elementary schools I taught at afterwards.

My students always called this song Tawny.

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Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Side-By-Side with the Richmond Symphony, February 9

Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, Daniel Myssyk, conductor after a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, November 17, 2019, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Richmond (click images to enlarge)

 

Next weekend, the young musicians of Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra in collaboration with the Richmond Symphony present our annual Side-By-Side concert: the culmination of months of work on the part of the students, and a highlight of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program (YOP) season. This year’s Side-By-Side promises to be a memorable occasion for all, as 125 musicians gather together on stage to perform Hector Berlioz’s monumental Symphonie Fantastique.

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Off The Podium Debuts on ChoralNet

I’m thrilled to announce that today I begin a weekly blog on ChoralNet, the professional networking site for the global online choral community. ChoralNet is operated by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), which I’ve been a member of for years. It’s a distinct honor to be invited to share my work with choral musicians through this forum, which reaches thousands of members, all over the world, every day.

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2019: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Posing with the Boticelli ~ this painting was the star of the exhibit “Life, Love & Marriage Chests in Renaissance Italy” at the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, where I was invited to perform a recital of Italian Renaissance lute masterworks on February 14, 2019. (click images to enlarge)

Off The Podium Reflections, with a few Statistics

My annual review of Off The Podium, in which I share some thoughts, highlights, and statistics from the past year. Sometimes this blog is a little all over the place, hence the title.

This is the fifth year in a row that I have written this summary, and this year’s report will be a little different from the format of previous years. There are fewer lists this year and fewer statistics. This year’s review is more reflective and anecdotal.

2019 brought tremendous change for me and my family. Both of our children graduated (one from high school, one from graduate school), I accepted a new job in a new city, and my wife and I packed everything up, sold our house in Nashville and moved. After nearly sixteen years in Music City, we now reside in Richmond, Virginia, where I serve as Director of Education and Community Engagement for the Richmond Symphony.

Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of my work in music education with the world (now at the Richmond Symphony), and to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education. Off The Podium reaches thousands of readers all over the world. Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support!

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Universal Music Education

Nashville School of the Arts Festival Choir in performance, May 13, 2013, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville (click images to enlarge)

As we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, the time has come for music educators to stop pussyfooting around and advocate for Universal Music Education. Indeed, it is long past time. We should stop wasting valuable time – time that belongs to us and to the children in our care – we should stop seeking compromise solutions that merely seek to preserve music education’s place in school curriculums, a place that is in most cases completely upside-down, a place that has fallen into neglect and disrepute over that last decades, a place that was rarely or never ideal in the first place. It is time to advocate for what is truly needed by our children and our society: a comprehensive music education for every child in every school.

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