Walter Bitner

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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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Nashville Symphony EDCE at SphinxConnect 2017

Nashville Symphony Education & Community Engagement staff with Aaron Dworkin, founder of Sphinx and Dean of University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance, SphinxConnect, Detroit, February 10, 2017. (l to r) WB, Kelley Bell, Aaron Dworkin, Kimberly McLemore, Kristen Freeman.

Nashville Symphony EDCE staff with Aaron Dworkin, founder of Sphinx and Dean of University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, & Dance, SphinxConnect, Detroit, February 10, 2017. (l to r) WB, Kelley Bell, Aaron Dworkin, Kimberly McLemore, Kristen Freeman.

Earlier this month – February 9-12, 2017 – our entire Nashville Symphony Education & Community Engagement Department attended the Sphinx Organization‘s 20th annual Competition and 5th annual conference in Detroit, retitled SphinxConnect this year.

We spent an eventful four days attending concerts, interviews, panel discussions, and presentations, several networking (and celebratory) receptions, and other meetings. Some 500 people were there from all over the country (and some from other countries as well), many of whom only see each other a few times per year. The entire conference was imbued with a heady excitement.

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The 2017 Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival

Today the Nashville Symphony hosted the first ever Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Monday, February 6, 2017: three choirs from Middle Tennessee public high schools gathered for a day of music making on the stage of Laura Turner Hall under the direction of Dr. Tucker Biddlecombe, Interim Director of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and Director of Choral Activities at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music.

A wonderful day of music and camaraderie was had by all as our beautiful concert hall was filled with the joyful sound of young people singing for and with each other. Here follows some impressions and photos from the day!

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Accelerando Auditions 2017

Accelerando wind students Isabel Evernham, Bernard Ekwuazi, and Aalia Hanif at MTSBOA MidState Band, January 21, 2017

(l to r) Accelerando winds students Isabel Evernham, Bernard Ekwuazi, and Aalia Hanif at MTSBOA MidState Band, January 21, 2017 ~ photo courtesy of Shahnela Hanif

Tonight, January 24, 2017, Nashville Symphony EDCE staff will hold our first of three public information meetings for students interested in auditioning this year for the symphony’s award-winning Accelerando program. Tonight’s public meeting will be held at Casa Azafrán at 7 pm.

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.

Our inaugural class of six students from grades 7 – 10 entered the program in the fall of 2016; we are seeking to grow our enrollment to a total of eleven students in 2017. Please help spread the word about this unique, ground-breaking program and help us find these students!

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2016: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

As I did last year at this time, here I review my experience writing Off The Podium this year and share some statistics, what I have learned, and come clean on what exactly this blog is about.

The year has been a wild ride. Off The Podium has provided a great means to share the activities of the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony and the launch of our Accelerando program with the Nashville community and the world. It has also continued to provide me with a format and incentive to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – regular features of Off The Podium that now reach thousands of readers all over the world.

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