Walter Bitner

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The Joy of Solfège

SolfegePart1Part 1 in a 4-part series

Most of the country is still enjoying summer vacation, but here in Nashville the school year begins the first week of August – no lie.  This will be the first fall in many years that I am not starting a new school year as a teacher, although I am still vicariously experiencing it as a parent.  Forgive me if I wax nostalgic.

For all of my teaching career – save for 2008 – 2011 when I ran the piano studio at Nashville School of the Arts and simultaneously directed Music City Youth Orchestra – I was in some part, often for the most part, a singing teacher.  And so it is natural for my thoughts to turn, at this time of year, to the wonders of solfège.  For so many years, the use of this invaluable tool, the practice of this incomparable method was a staple of my daily life.  How many thousands of hours have I spent solfèging songs or vocal parts, or teaching students to do so, or doing it with them?  How could I have done my work without it?  Oh thou noble art. (more…)

Sumer Is Icumen In

the earliest known copy of Sumer is Icumin In; British Library Harley 978 folio 11v

the earliest known copy of Sumer Is Icumin In; British Library Harley 978 folio 11v

When I was an elementary and middle school music teacher (1991 – 2007), I structured a lot of my curriculum – especially the songs I chose to teach my students – around the seasons.  While it may seem like an obvious educational strategy, I think it is important to stress the value of this.  Children in our society are living in environments that are increasingly divorced from any sense of connection with the natural world.  Part of a music teacher’s mission is to give children not only a developed set of skills but also a generous survey (content) of our musical tradition, and the music literature – especially the song repertoire – includes a wide variety of examples of the use of music to evoke, celebrate, and otherwise honor many aspects of the natural world from which we come – and which we are still a part of, whether we recognize it or not.

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