Walter Bitner

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Accelerando: The First Year

Accelerando Class 2016-17: Aalia Hanif, Isabel Evernham, Bernard Ekwuazi, Antonio Thai, Emily Martinez-Perez, & Cedric Quinn ~ photo by Grannis Photography

 

As the Nashville Symphony’s 2016-17 season comes to a close, so does the first year of operation of our award-winning new Accelerando program.

Here is a brief review of highlights from our first year, including links, photos, and videos, and a look at what’s ahead as we prepare to move into our second year.

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Kaili Wang, Musical Ambassador

Kaili Wang plays for students at Vanderbilt Pre-School, Spring 2017 ~ photo courtesy of Vanderbilt University

Violinist Kaili Wang is known to the Nashville classical music community as the only two-time winner of the Nashville Symphony’s Curb Concerto Competition (2015 & 2017). The 17-year old Harpeth Hall rising senior is also a long-time student in the Pre-College program at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, where she studies with Professor of Violin Carolyn Huebl and is concertmaster of Curb Youth Symphony.

What you may not know about Kaili is that in addition to bringing performances of virtuosic violin literature to stages in Music City and beyond, she has spearheaded an effort to bring live music to very young children in our community, inspired by her experience playing violin for villagers in Uganda earlier this year.

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MNPS Neglects Music Education in Strategic Framework

The long-awaited strategic plan for Nashville’s public schools – released by Metro Nashville Public Schools in April 2017 – includes a many-faceted plan for improving the future of our schools in the years to come. Nine months in the making, this robust 38-page document includes an opening letter from the Board of Education Chair and the Director of Schools; a District Overview; an Executive Summary; the Strategic Framework and Elements section itself as well as sections on Students, People, Organization, and Community; an extensive Glossary; and a closing Acknowledgements section.

However, Exceeding Great Expectations: MNPS Strategic Framework does not include any mention of the words “music education” nor does it include any mention of the school district’s  nationally recognized music education initiative Music Makes Us.

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Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony: Spring 2017 Review

Nashville Symphony Education & Community Engagement staff: (l to r) Walter Bitner, director; Kristen Freeman, coordinator; Kelley Bell, program manager; Kimberly Kraft McLemore, Accelerando Manager ~ January 10, 2017

The Memorial Day Weekend is behind us now – summer is just around the corner! Soon we will enter the last stage of the season – our annual Community Concerts series of “symphony under the stars” parks concerts which begin on Thursday, June 8 at Centennial Park. But first, let’s pause to look back on our activities in the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony since January.

It’s been an eventful spring for our department at the Nashville Symphony. This post is a summary of what we’ve been up to since I posted my review of 2016 fall EDCE programming. For many of the events and programs described here,  I have already written dedicated articles: for more details, follow the links! (Click photos to enlarge them.)

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Side By Side 2017

Curb Youth Symphony & Nashville Symphony musicians rehearse for the annual Side By Side performance, May 16, 2017 ~ photo by Kelley Bell (click to enlarge)

Last week – on Wednesday, May 17, Curb Youth Symphony joined the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall for our annual Side By Side concert. Curb Youth Symphony is directed by Carol Nies, and this year’s annual Side By Side event was conducted ( for the first time) by Nashville Symphony Music Director & Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. For two days many of Middle Tennessee’s most accomplished teenage musicians thronged the halls of Schermerhorn Symphony Center, rubbing shoulders with Nashville Symphony musicians backstage and sharing stands with them on stage as we rehearsed and performed this much anticipated event.

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Two Brahms Portraits

this print cropped from “Brahms at the Piano” by Willy von Beckerath (1868-1938) has hung over my piano at home since 1986

Johannes Brahms was born on this date 184 years ago: on May 7, 1833. The Brahms Bicentennial is only 16 years away!

Like Sebastian, Brahms is a composer whose music has been a deep and abiding presence in my life. Yet I have so far avoided writing much about his music here on Off The Podium. Beyond a reflection I wrote in 2015 after attending a performance of his Requiem, I have merely mentioned Brahms a few times in other articles. So far.

Today, in honor of Brahms’ Birthday, I offer these personal anecdotes:

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Blair School of Music: Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2017

Joseph Haydn and friends playing string quartets

This summer, Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music will host their first ever Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute. The brainchild of Pam Schneller, Blair’s Associate Dean for the Precollege and Adult Program and Senior Lecturer in Choral Music, this special four-day program is the first 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.

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Fie, Nay, Prithee John

Henry Purcell (1659-1695) ~ anonymous portrait

Singing canons is a wonderful way to help young singers develop independence, sing harmony and polyphony, and all with material that takes much less time to learn than music cast in more than one part. In strict canon, everyone sings the same part: we all learn the same melody and text together, and once it’s solid split up the group, start singing it at different times, and presto! musical magic.

Canons can be simple enough for very young children to learn in a few minutes or so challenging that professional choirs must exert considerable effort to sing them well. With a broad repertoire of canons on the tip of her tongue, the skilled music teacher is ready to make or teach satisfying music with students of any level, for any occasion, at any time or place.

Over the course of my teaching career I taught dozens of canons to students of all ages: rounds with students beginning in Kindergarten, catches with more experienced singers (usually by third grade). We sang canons about everything: happy and sad canons, silly canons, canons about love, animals, God, food, about music itself. Canons in English, Latin, French, German, Russian. Canons. One of the most important canons I tried to teach to all of my students over the years is the ancient Sumer Is Icumen In, which I have written in detail about here.

Another fabulous canon which I taught to hundreds of students from elementary through high school, and which is the subject of today’s article, is the indignant and difficult “chiding” catch Fie, Nay, Prithee John by the great Henry Purcell. And yes, by teaching this song, I taught my students to swear.

 

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Is Music a Sport?

Winners of the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition (l to r) silver medalist Beatrice Rana, gold medalist Vadym Kholodenko, & crystal award winner Sean Chen ~ photo by Tom Fox

“I’m so bored. What is wrong with me? This is what I’ve always wanted. I won Nationals. I’m in charge of this committee. But it feels so meaningless. Do all teachers feel this at some point?”

~ (character) Will Schuester
Glee, Season 4, Episode 3: Makeover

Although advocates for music education – especially music education in public school settings – often speak to ideals about “music education for all children”, or the importance of the inclusion of music education in a well-rounded education, the reality of the state of music education in the United States is that music education is not for everyone.

Alongside the inequality of access and inclusion already being discussed by many throughout the country, the role that competition plays in the activities of music education presented to our children has become so pervasive that by their very nature, these activities exclude and discourage many children, who as a result are not receiving a music education, or are receiving an inadequate and impoverished music education.

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Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2017

2017 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Maggie Kasinger, Kaili Wang, Chloe Harvel, Daniel Hosny

2017 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Maggie Kasinger, Kaili Wang, Chloe Harvel, Daniel Hosny ~ photos by Sally Bebawy (click to enlarge)

This past weekend we had the great pleasure of welcoming a dozen teenage musicians into the hall to compete in the annual Curb Concerto Competition. The first round of the competition took place on Saturday, Februrary 25 and the finals round occurred on Sunday afternoon, February 26, 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 17. The 2017 Side By Side Concert will be conducted by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero.

This year’s contestants included 6 violinists, 3 pianists, and one student each on cello, harp, and flute. Both rounds of the competition took place on the stage of Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

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