Walter Bitner

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The Firebird

Image credit: snob.ru, Wikimedia Commons, veche.razved.ca

It is 1980, and I am 14 years old. I don’t know exactly when this happened but I feel sure it was in the summer or fall. I am standing before the record player I had received for Christmas a few years earlier, in my adolescent lair in the basement of my parent’s house in Camillus, New York. The turntable could be rotated on its side to hide within the wooden cabinet in which it was housed when not in use, and the spindle could accommodate up to 6 LPs at a time (by the time of this memory I had learned never to do this, with the hope of preserving the quality of my record collection as long as possible).

I have just unwrapped the 3 LP set Yessongs from its plastic shrink wrap and set the needle down on the record at the beginning of side A of the first LP. Yes was my favorite rock band when I was in high school (they still are) and I have saved up money from several weeks of early mornings on my bicycle delivering newspapers to buy this, only the second triple album in my collection (the first was Keith Jarrett’s Solo Concerts Bremen / Lausanne).

As I marvel at the stunning artwork by Roger Dean that not only adorns the cover but in fact nearly every surface of the package, what I hear at first are the sounds of an arena crowd anticipating a Yes concert to begin – Yessongs was the band’s first live album. But when the music begins, it isn’t Yes at all – instead I hear the tender horn solo over quiet tremolo chords in the strings that begins the Finale of Igor Stravinsky’s 1910 ballet score The Firebird.

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Violins of Hope Come to Music City

Nashville Symphony music director Giancarlo Guerrero fields questions from reporters ~ Violins of Hope press conference, September 12, 2017, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click photos to enlarge)

On Tuesday, September 12, the Nashville Symphony hosted a press conference at Schermerhorn Symphony Center to announce the city-wide collaboration effort to bring the world-famous Violins of Hope to Nashville in the spring of next year.

A diverse array of local organizations – including the Nashville Symphony, Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, Nashville Public Library, Nashville Ballet, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Vanderbilt University, Blair School of Music and many more – will bring this rare collection of instruments – the majority of which were played by Jewish musicians interned in concentration camps during the Holocaust – to Nashville from Israel in mid-March 2018.

Restored and refurbished by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshi Weinstein, the Violins of Hope will be the centerpiece of a months-long initiative designed to foster a city-wide dialogue on music, art, social justice and free expression.

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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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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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Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony: Spring 2017 Review

Nashville Symphony Education & Community Engagement staff: (l to r) Walter Bitner, director; Kristen Freeman, coordinator; Kelley Bell, program manager; Kimberly Kraft McLemore, Accelerando Manager ~ January 10, 2017

The Memorial Day Weekend is behind us now – summer is just around the corner! Soon we will enter the last stage of the season – our annual Community Concerts series of “symphony under the stars” parks concerts which begin on Thursday, June 8 at Centennial Park. But first, let’s pause to look back on our activities in the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony since January.

It’s been an eventful spring for our department at the Nashville Symphony. This post is a summary of what we’ve been up to since I posted my review of 2016 fall EDCE programming. For many of the events and programs described here,  I have already written dedicated articles: for more details, follow the links! (Click photos to enlarge them.)

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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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Farewell, Vinay Parameswaran

Vinay Parameswaran

Today, the Nashville Symphony announced that Vinay Parameswaran will be leaving his position as Associate Conductor here to become Assistant Conductor at The Cleveland Orchestra. Vinay leaves Nashville in June to assume his new responsibilities. It has been our privilege to work closely with Vinay on many education and community programs in the last couple years, and I know I speak on behalf of the entire EDCE department – and everyone here at the Nashville Symphony – in expressing how much we will miss him. Vinay is a tremendously talented, insightful, and positive musician and it has been a joy to collaborate with him.

Last week Vinay and I sat down for an hour to reminisce about his time at the Nashville Symphony and reviewed some of the highlights of the last several years.

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Barthold Kujiken with Music City Baroque

Barthold Kujiken

March is Early Music Month, an annual campaign to promote awareness of early music throughout the North American musical community. Early Music Month is promoted and designed by Early Music America, a national organization that facilitates and encourages communication, collaboration, raising awareness, and sharing resources for those interested in historical performance and music before the 19th century.

It’s therefore timely – and no surprise – that our fair Music City has several phenomenal events coming up this month that feature live performances of music from the old repertoires, including both performances by local ensembles and rare visits from acclaimed European musicians.

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2017 Jazz OnStage: My Favorite Things

I was thrilled this week to be a part of this season’s Jazz OnStage: an exciting part of the OnStage series of free chamber music concerts at the Nashville Symphony.

The OnStage series is a longstanding part of the Nashville Symphony’s community engagement programming –  I’ve written about these programs in a number of previous posts here on Off The Podium. The concept behind OnStage is simple: on selected weeknights throughout the season, Nashville Symphony musicians present an early evening chamber music concert in which the audience is seated on the stage with the musicians, and the program includes the opportunity for dialogue between the musicians and the audience.

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