Walter Bitner

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My Secret Experiment in Music Education

Music City Youth Orchestra rehearses on the stage of the Polk Theater, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville, May 10, 2010

Continued from: Is Music a Sport?

In June 2007, I founded Music City Youth Orchestra with Tracy Silverman and a group of ten students, and I served as MCYO’s music director and de facto executive director until I resigned in August 2012. For more than five years, MCYO occupied my attention nearly every day as I worked to grow and develop the ensemble artistically: I conducted all of the orchestra’s auditions, rehearsals, and performances, chose and arranged repertoire and prepared it for rehearsal, contracted venues, generated publicity, recruited students, soloists, and adult musicians and educators to assist us. I recruited board members and we established the organization as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; I filed paperwork, conducted meetings, sought funding, and served as the organization’s sole administrator for the first four years of operation. During most of this time I was concurrently both a full-time high school teacher and attending graduate school. It was an exciting and exhausting time.

What many do not know – I never articulated this plainly to anyone while I was involved with MCYO, and only came clean about this in conversations with a few former MCYO students and friends in recent years – is that during those five years I pursued a secret educational agenda in my work with the students. Music City Youth Orchestra was the grand experiment of my teaching career in which I put to the test some of my most deeply held convictions about the value and promise of music education in the lives of children.

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$10 Tickets for All Students: SOUNDCHECK 2018-19

 

Registration is now open for the Nashville Symphony’s SOUNDCHECK student access ticket program for the 2018-19 season, beginning with our performances of Symphony Under The Stars, September 9 at Ascend Ampitheater. SOUNDCHECK provides $10 tickets to select Nashville Symphony performances for ALL students, K – 12 through university and graduate school.

SOUNDCHECK TICKETS are available to students for purchase NOW for eligible Nashville Symphony concerts (listed below) September 2018 – May 2019.

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Accelerando Begins Year Three

Nashville Symphony Accelerando 2018-2019 ~ photo by Sally Bebawy (click photos to enlarge)

 

Earlier this month we held a reception for returning students and families in the Nashville Symphony Accelerando program to welcome seven new students and families who join Accelerando this fall. It was an exciting occasion at which we celebrated these talented, motivated young musicians, and officially marked the beginning of new year of working together.

The reception brought to a close the long and thorough audition process that began with initial auditions on March 3, through semifinal auditions in April and May, and finalist trial lessons over the summer. We are thrilled to welcome these fine students into the program!

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Expanding Educational Horizons Through Technology

Michael Tilson Thomas (Music Director, New World Symphony) with Aalia Hanif, Accelerando student, April 2018 (click photos to enlarge)

New World Symphony & Nashville Symphony Accelerando:
A Unique Partnership

I first met Cassidy Fitzpatrick, Vice President for Musician Advancement at New World Symphony, at the 2016 League of American Orchestras Annual Conference, held that year in Baltimore, Maryland. Cassidy approached me after a session where I had spoken about the Nashville Symphony’s Accelerando program, introduced herself, and we made arrangements to speak soon after.

This is how a number of important projects I’ve been involved with over the last few years have germinated – through an initial “chance” meeting at a conference. That crucial first conversation has led to a robust and thrilling partnership for the Nashville Symphony Accelerando program, now entering its third year.

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Blair School of Music: Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute 2018

Adult Chamber Music Institute 2017, Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University, Nashville

 

Following up on their success last summer, Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music will host the second Adult Summer Chamber Music Institute in July. This special four-day program is the only one 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 with the guidance of some of the finest string music educators in Nashville.

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Side By Side 2018

Curb Youth Symphony musicians (Kaili Wang and Maggie Kasinger, concertmasters) begin rehearsal for the annual Side By Side Concert ~ May 14, 2018, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click photos to enlarge)

On May 15, Curb Youth Symphony and the Nashville Symphony combined forces 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 Side By Side event was conducted for the second year in a row by Nashville Symphony Music Director & Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. On Monday and Tuesday last week, 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 as we prepared for and enjoyed this much anticipated annual event.

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The Cards

Around the country, the school year is coming to a close. For high school students, spring break is fast becoming a distant memory as students complete projects and write papers, cram for End of Course tests, Advanced Placement exams, finals.

Performing arts programs, too, are in the last stages of preparation for the final performances of the year: in many cases, a Spring Concert is the traditional event for youth choir, orchestra, and band programs. These culminating events showcase student achievement over the course of the year, and provide an opportunity for students and parents to to come together and share what has been accomplished.

The Spring Concert can also be an emotional event, as students who have completed their time in the program prepare to move on to the next stage of their lives, and say goodbye to their friends and their teachers. In many cases, the relationships students make in their arts programs are the closest and most impactful relationships they make in high school, and these provide cherished memories that last a lifetime.

Like many music teachers, I used a simple ceremony at each Spring Concert to mark this passage to the next phase for my students: The Cards. (more…)

Voices of Hope

 

On March 26, the Nashville Symphony in partnership with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission presented Voices of Hope, the Second Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival. This special, free education and community event was designed and presented this year as part of Violins of Hope Nashville.

Voices of Hope convened student choirs from local public schools, private schools and religious organizations under the direction of Dr. Tamara Freeman, an internationally acknowledged Holocaust ethnomusicologist. Dr. Freeman worked with each choir and director individually in the weeks and months leading up to the event. All of this preparation culminated in the festival: a day of rehearsals and a free performance open to the public.

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SphinxConnect 2018

 

Last month I traveled to Detroit, Michigan for the 6th annual Sphinx conference – SphinxConnect – and 21st annual Sphinx Competition. SphinxConnect was held this year at the downtown Detroit Marriot at the Renaissance Center. This was the third year in a row I have attended the conference and competition, and my second as a speaker.

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Curb Concerto Competition Finalists 2018

2018 Curb Concerto Competition Finalists: (l to r) Sean Yang, Luke Turner, Maggie Kasinger, Joshua Stanczak, Shawn Zheng ~ photos by Kathleen Munkel (click to enlarge)

Last month the Nashville Symphony hosted our annual Curb Concerto Competition for students ages 14-18. The first round of the competition took place on Saturday, Februrary 24 and the finals round occurred on Sunday afternoon, February 25, 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 15. The 2018 Side By Side Concert will be conducted by Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, as it was last season. Reserve tickets to this special free concert here.

This year’s contestants included 18 fine young musicians from across Tennessee: 7 violinists, 4 pianists, 3 flute players, 2 cellists, and one student each on horn and alto saxophone. Both rounds of the competition took place on the stage of Laura Turner Hall at Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

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