Walter Bitner

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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…)

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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Accelerando Auditions 2018

Accelerando students with John Williams, September 8, 2017, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click images to enlarge)

Beginning next week, Nashville Symphony EDCE staff will hold a series of public information meetings for students interested in auditioning this year for the symphony’s award-winning Accelerando program. Students selected through this year’s audition process will join the program in August 2018.

Founded in 2016,  Accelerando is designed to prepare gifted young students of diverse backgrounds to pursue music at the collegiate level and beyond. Accelerando seeks to create professional opportunities for musicians from ethnic communities underrepresented in today’s orchestras by providing them with instruction, mentorship, performance experience and assistance applying to music schools. With access to the resources of a major American orchestra, these students will be able to realize their full potential and will form the next generation of orchestra musicians.

We are seeking to grow our current enrollment of nine students to a total of sixteen students in 2018-19. Please help spread the word about this unique, ground-breaking program and help us find these students!

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2017: What Kind of Blog Is This?

Off The Podium Reflections, Statistics, and Top Ten Posts

In what is becoming an annual tradition, here I review my experience writing Off The Podium over the course of the year and share some statistics. We will also see if I have learned anything and I will attempt to describe what this blog – which sometimes goes off in unexpected directions – is all about.

2017 was a very full year, packed with many significant events and activities. Off The Podium continues to provide a great means to share the activities of the department of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony with the world. It also remains a productive format that has inspired me to continue to develop my writing on the topics of Music and Education – these features of Off The Podium reach thousands of readers all over the world and  have brought me into contact with many musicians and educators I would otherwise have had no opportunity to meet or correspond with.

Thank you everyone for your continued encouragement and support.

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

Nashville Symphony EDCE staff with special guest after the Gala dress rehearsal, September 8, 2017 ~ (l to r) Kimberly McLemore, WB, John Williams, Kelley Bell, Kristen Freeman (click images to enlarge)

It’s been a busy fall, packed with a cornucopia of education and community engagement activities at the Nashville Symphony. This is my bi-annual review of our department’s programming, just in time to wrap up the year!

 

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Remember Their Birthdays

Photo: Omer Wazir/Creative Commons (click images to enlarge)

This weekend saw the third time my birthday came and went since I started writing Off The Podium, and each time I thought about writing this little article. It seems like such an obvious thing to do – a “no-brainer” – like other things I have written about here, and yet…it is these obvious, little, yet essential efforts teachers sometimes sacrifice with all the demands on our time in the classroom.

Remember their birthdays.

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Concentration

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my piano teacher assigned me a simplified arrangement of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer. At that point in my piano study, I had not yet attempted to play anything that required such independence between my hands – this arrangement retained the typical ragtime style of a syncopated melody in the right hand set against the left hand alternating bass notes on the beat and chords on the division of the beat.

This piece was a struggle for me to learn, but it was the right piece at the right time. Despite the difficulty I had in coordinating my hands to play the two distinct rhythmic patterns against each other, I was captivated by The Entertainer and very motivated to learn it. My parents had taken me to see The Sting and had given me the film’s soundtrack recording on LP featuring Marvin Hamlisch’s marvelous arrangements of Scott Joplin’s original rags. So putting The Entertainer in my hands at that stage of my piano curriculum was timely on the part of my piano teacher and incredibly fortuitous for me. Thank you, Mrs. Stoike.

I clearly remember the day it happened.

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Peter and the Wolf

Soviet art depicting Peter and the Wolf ~ Peter is dressed in a Young Pioneer uniform (click images to enlarge)

It’s one of the most often performed works in the orchestral repertoire, and with good reason: Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf may be the most ingeniously composed piece of musical storytelling ever written for children.

This month, the Nashville Symphony performed Peter and the Wolf for thousands of local elementary school students as the featured work on this season’s Young People’s Concert for 3rd and 4th graders. I had not heard the piece for a while. Over the last couple weeks as I observed our superlative orchestra performing Prokofiev’s masterpiece for rapt audiences of children, I thought about the unique power of music to invigorate and develop a child’s imagination.
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Free Day of Music 2017

 

Here is your interactive, one-stop rundown of the Nashville Symphony’s 12th Annual Free Day of Music. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, October 21, as always at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Performances showcasing more than 20 different musical acts will be presented on four stages located both inside and outside Schermerhorn.  A diverse array of performers from throughout the community will present a wide range of musical styles including classical, country, rock, jazz, soul, world music and more.  Follow the links below to learn more!

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Best Effort

I think something about this idea as an axiom for work and life was always there for me. When I was a child my father admonished me many times to do my best. I remember him saying to me on numerous occasions “Be the best at whatever it is you choose to do. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are the best at it. If you decide to be a garbage man, then be the best garbage man!” It made a strong impression on me as a young child, and I am sure had numerous (foreseen and unforeseen) consequences for the course of my life.

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