Walter Bitner

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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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Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Fall Concert, November 17

Conductor Daniel Myssyk leads Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra rehearsal, November 5, 2019, Dominion Energy Center, Richmond (click images to enlarge)

 

One of the many aspects of my new position at the Richmond Symphony that I love is the opportunity to interact with students and staff of the symphony’s wonderful Youth Orchestra Program. On Tuesday afternoons, more than two hundred young musicians from metropolitan Richmond and beyond gather downtown to make music in five ensembles. When I arrived in Richmond to begin my new position back in August, the most advanced of these ensembles – Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra (RSYO) had already begun rehearsals for the season, and the other four ensembles began their seasons within a few weeks of my arrival. Now as the weather turns colder and the holidays draw near, the anticipation and excitement among all involved are palpable as we prepare for the first performances of the season.

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Masterclass with Eduardo Rojas, November 15

Eduardo Rojas

Pianist Eduardo Rojas will be joining the Richmond Symphony under the baton of Richmond Symphony Associate Conductor Chia-Hsuan Lin for performances of the Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major by Franz Liszt as part of our Altria Masterworks 3 on November 16 & 17 – click here to purchase tickets.

We’re thrilled to announce that in addition to performing with the symphony, Eduardo Rojas will teach a masterclass for student pianists at the University of Richmond on Friday, November 15 from 10:30 am to noon at Perkinson Recital Hall at the University of Richmond. Students, parents, teachers, friends: all are invited to attend this very special event, which is free and open to the public.

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Masterclass with Brandie Sutton, October 25

Brandie Sutton

Soprano Brandie Sutton will be joining the Richmond Symphony under the baton of music director candidate Roderick Cox for performances of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24, and Depuis le jour from the opera Louise by Gustave Charpentier as part of our Altria Masterworks 2 on October 26 – click here to purchase tickets.

We’re thrilled to announce that in addition to performing with the symphony, Brandie Sutton will teach a masterclass for student vocalists at Virginia Commonwealth University on Friday, October 25 from noon – 1:15 pm at the James W. Black Music Center recital hall at VCU. Students, parents, teachers, friends: all are invited to attend this very special event, which is free and open to the public.

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Herring’s Head

The Atlantic Herring (click images to enlarge)

 

Herring’s Head is a cumulative folksong that I taught to and sung with students of all ages at many schools over the course of my teaching career. It features humorous lyrics that deliver a conservation message about whole animal or “nose to tail” eating (mindful consumption). Herring’s Head‘s call-and-response structure, extroverted attitude, and whimsy made it a popular and successful song to sing with large groups of children and adults.

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Thank You, Nashville

 

with Madonna and Child, ca. 1490 by Sandro Botticelli ~ 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 music on February 14, 2019. Thank you! (click images to enlarge)

Dear Friends,

The time has come to say goodbye.

In August 2019, I will be leaving the Nashville Symphony to begin my new position as Director of Education & Community Engagement for the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Richmond, Virginia.

Nashville has been our home for nearly sixteen years – our family spent vital and intense years of our lives here, our young children grew into adults, we worked hard and built careers, made friends, shared joys and heartaches. We have loved living in Music City. Before we turn our energies to pulling up roots and starting over in a new town, I wish to reflect on some of the many gifts you have given us over the years, and attempt to express my gratitude.

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The Accelerando Overture

Nashville Symphony Accelerando Ensemble under the direction of Enrico Lopez-Yañez rehearses on the stage of Laura Turner Hall, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville, June 3, 2019 (click images to enlarge)

During the first week of June 2019, the Nashville Symphony hosted the 74th annual National Conference for the League of American Orchestras. This exciting event brought approximately 1200 orchestra staff from across North America, Europe, and beyond for four days of conversations, presentations, concerts, and more.

The League’s Education and Community Engagement constituency – EDCE staff at member orchestras from across the country and beyond – is one of the most active, and it has been my privilege to participate in sessions at several previous conferences with my colleagues. As it was our turn to host these activities this year, we focused a spotlight on the Nashville Symphony’s innovative Accelerando program.

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Inspiration and Music Education

Nashville School of the Arts Early Music Consort performs at Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, May 13, 2013 (click images to enlarge)

 

In the contemporary climate of data-driven education, you don’t hear much about inspiration in the popular rhetoric about music education and its role and purpose in the lives of children. But in fact the music teacher’s most important responsibility is to inspire her students.

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Side By Side 2019

Curb Youth Symphony and the Nashville Symphony perform the annual Side By Side concert, Enrico Lopez-Yañez, conductor. May 7, 2019, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville ~ photo by Diana Rosales (click images to enlarge)

 

This year’s annual Side By Side Concert featuring the combined forces of Curb Youth Symphony and the Nashville Symphony on the stage of Laura Turner Hall took place on Tuesday, May 7. Curb Youth Symphony is directed by Carol Nies, and this year’s Side By Side event was conducted by Nashville Symphony Principal Pops Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez. As always, we enjoyed sharing our symphony home with many of Middle Tennessee’s most accomplished teenage musicians, as they rehearsed and performed alongside our own Nashville Symphony musicians at this eagerly anticipated special event.

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