Walter Bitner

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Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) 2020

Richmond Symphony Principal Flute Mary Boodell demonstrates her instrument during a performance by the Principal Woodwind Quintet at Rural Point Elementary School, Mechanicsville, Virginia, February 27, 2020 (click images to enlarge)

 

One of the most wide-reaching and robust programs we produce, the Richmond Symphony Musical Ambassadors Program (MAP) curates, develops, rehearses, and performs over 125 concerts each season in metropolitan Richmond area schools. Although many in our community may be unaware even of the existence of this program, it nonetheless fulfills a vital aspect of our music education mission, introducing more than 45,000 children to classical music and the instruments of the orchestra every year.

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Ho! Young Rider

Image by Dieter_G from Pixabay ~ click images to enlarge

This song, whose origins are shrouded in obscurity, was hands down the most popular song that I ever taught to children.

When I arrived at Blue Rock School to begin my tenure there in February 1991, Ho! Young Rider was already the student favorite, and in my memory, I learned this song from the students themselves within the first couple of weeks I worked there – in a bit of table-turning I asked the students to teach me songs they already knew so I could sing with them. Ho! Young Rider was first on that list. I soon added a guitar accompaniment and through repetitions in my music classes that spring arrived at the format in which I would teach this song to children for the next fifteen years.

 

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As I Went Over Tawny Marsh

Loch Vennachar, Perthshire, by Harold Sutton Palmer (1854-1933) (click images to enlarge)

 

This gem, beloved by my choirs, was one of my favorite canons to teach to and sing with children, and a staple of my children’s choir repertoire for many years. I first came across it the early 1990s in a book I can’t find right now, a little red book of traditional songs in English used for students of English as a foreign language at schools in twentieth century continental Europe. I taught As I Went Over Tawny Marsh to my students at Blue Rock School and at most of the other elementary schools I taught at afterwards.

My students always called this song Tawny.

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Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Side-By-Side with the Richmond Symphony, February 9

Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra, Daniel Myssyk, conductor after a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, November 17, 2019, Carpenter Theatre, Dominion Energy Center, Richmond (click images to enlarge)

 

Next weekend, the young musicians of Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra in collaboration with the Richmond Symphony present our annual Side-By-Side concert: the culmination of months of work on the part of the students, and a highlight of the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra Program (YOP) season. This year’s Side-By-Side promises to be a memorable occasion for all, as 125 musicians gather together on stage to perform Hector Berlioz’s monumental Symphonie Fantastique.

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Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 Announces Competitors, TwoSet Violin, and More

 

Its been my privilege to work next door to the U.S. team planning this year’s Menuhin Competition Richmond 2020 since I began working at the Richmond Symphony in August (our offices share a wall). So I’ve been inspired on a regular basis as hints were dropped about details for this major international musical event, as hints became hopes became plans, applications were made, contracts were drawn up, and all of a sudden here it is: January 22, the day of days, the red letter day!

Today is the day when much of what has been kept secret is finally revealed. (more…)

Off The Podium Debuts on ChoralNet

I’m thrilled to announce that today I begin a weekly blog on ChoralNet, the professional networking site for the global online choral community. ChoralNet is operated by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), which I’ve been a member of for years. It’s a distinct honor to be invited to share my work with choral musicians through this forum, which reaches thousands of members, all over the world, every day.

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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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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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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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