Walter Bitner

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Concentration

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my piano teacher assigned me a simplified arrangement of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer. At that point in my piano study, I had not yet attempted to play anything that required such independence between my hands – this arrangement retained the typical ragtime style of a syncopated melody in the right hand set against the left hand alternating bass notes on the beat and chords on the division of the beat.

This piece was a struggle for me to learn, but it was the right piece at the right time. Despite the difficulty I had in coordinating my hands to play the two distinct rhythmic patterns against each other, I was captivated by The Entertainer and very motivated to learn it. My parents had taken me to see The Sting and had given me the film’s soundtrack recording on LP featuring Marvin Hamlisch’s marvelous arrangements of Scott Joplin’s original rags. So putting The Entertainer in my hands at that stage of my piano curriculum was timely on the part of my piano teacher and incredibly fortuitous for me. Thank you, Mrs. Stoike.

I clearly remember the day it happened.

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Martin & Sebastian

Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the church door ~ 1878 painting by Julius Hübner (1806-1882) click images to enlarge

This week marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This protest against the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church led to the social, cultural, and philosophical revolution we now call the Reformation – which in turn led to many changes in the abilities of governments and religions to control the personal lives of individuals in Western Civilization, among other things.

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Peter and the Wolf

Soviet art depicting Peter and the Wolf ~ Peter is dressed in a Young Pioneer uniform (click images to enlarge)

It’s one of the most often performed works in the orchestral repertoire, and with good reason: Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf may be the most ingeniously composed piece of musical storytelling ever written for children.

This month, the Nashville Symphony performed Peter and the Wolf for thousands of local elementary school students as the featured work on this season’s Young People’s Concert for 3rd and 4th graders. I had not heard the piece for a while. Over the last couple weeks as I observed our superlative orchestra performing Prokofiev’s masterpiece for rapt audiences of children, I thought about the unique power of music to invigorate and develop a child’s imagination.
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Best Effort

I think something about this idea as an axiom for work and life was always there for me. When I was a child my father admonished me many times to do my best. I remember him saying to me on numerous occasions “Be the best at whatever it is you choose to do. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are the best at it. If you decide to be a garbage man, then be the best garbage man!” It made a strong impression on me as a young child, and I am sure had numerous (foreseen and unforeseen) consequences for the course of my life.

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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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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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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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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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