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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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 Lute at the Court of Henry VIII 

The Lute Part XII

Unknown Man with Lute by Hans Holbein the younger (1497/8 – 1543), Berlin, Gemäldegalerie ~ American musicologist John Ward speculated that this might be Philip van Wilder, but David Van Edwards has cast doubt on this theory here. (click images to enlarge)

When Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) ascended to the throne of England in 1509, the lute did not play the prominent role in English society and culture it would come to hold by the end of the 16th century. In addition to his matrimonial activities, waging war in France, and reforming the church, it is well known that Henry VIII was an enthusiastic musician, and even composer. He invigorated and developed the musical aspects of life at the English court in the first half of the 16th century far beyond what they had been under previous English monarchs, employing dozens of musicians, including lutenists (or lewters, as they appear in contemporary account books).

Before Henry VIII, the English court was still heavily influenced by Burgundian culture, and use of the harp superseded the lute there until the end of the 15th century. The lute rose to prominence in England by the second half of the 16th century, lagging behind much of the continent by a couple of generations.

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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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BACHanalia 2018

The 12th annual BACHanalia – our city’s annual Bach festival – will be held on Friday, March 16 from 4 – 10 pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 900 Broadway in downtown Nashville. Once a year, musicians from many parts of our community come together to present this unique six-hour concert-without-pause devoted to Sebastian’s music, generously hosted by our friends at the cathedral in their beautiful sanctuary.

BACHanalia is one of the highlights of the musical year in Music City.

Once again this year, I was given a special glimpse of the program in advance of this year’s concert, which I leak to you here, Off The Podium readership. We’re in for a tremendous evening of music-making!

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The Italian Concerto

 

In 1735, when Sebastian was 50 years old, he published his second volume of keyboard works, Clavier-Übung II (“Keyboard Practice II”). It contains two pieces for double-manual harpsichord: Concerto nach Italienischen Gusto (Concerto in the Italian taste, now known at the Italian Concerto, BWV 971), and Ouvertüre nach Französischer Art (Overture in the French Style, or simply the French Overture, BWV 831).

That Sebastian chose to pair these two works in the same publication paid homage to the old tradition (by his time) for composers to seek a harmonious way (or perhaps take sides) between the perceived opposition of French and Italian musical styles – an argument that had been carried on in European musical circles for centuries. This discussion is a part of Sebastian’s œuvre too, and was influenced by the work of his contemporary François Couperin (1668-1733) and his “les Goûts réunis” or “reunited tastes”, which was published in 1724. Although Sebastian and Couperin never met, they corresponded with each other. The subjects of their letters has long been a tantalizing mystery to Bach scholars, as the letters were subsequently used as lids for jam pots and thus destroyed. Since Couperin had died two years before Clavier-Übung II was published, it is possible that in his own way, Sebastian also intended the volume as an homage to Couperin himself – or as a rebuttal or commentary on the various merits of each style .

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