Walter Bitner

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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.


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 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…)

Voices of Hope


On March 26, the Nashville Symphony in partnership with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission presented Voices of Hope, the Second Annual Schermerhorn Invitational Choral Festival. This special, free education and community event was designed and presented this year as part of Violins of Hope Nashville.

Voices of Hope convened student choirs from local public schools, private schools and religious organizations under the direction of Dr. Tamara Freeman, an internationally acknowledged Holocaust ethnomusicologist. Dr. Freeman worked with each choir and director individually in the weeks and months leading up to the event. All of this preparation culminated in the festival: a day of rehearsals and a free performance open to the public.


Martin & Sebastian

Martin Luther nails his 95 Theses to the church door ~ 1878 painting by Julius Hübner (1806-1882) click images to enlarge

This week marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This protest against the sale of indulgences by the Catholic Church led to the social, cultural, and philosophical revolution we now call the Reformation – which in turn led to many changes in the abilities of governments and religions to control the personal lives of individuals in Western Civilization, among other things.


What Your Students Will Remember

Nashville School of the Arts Choir students backstage before a performance, February 19, 2013, Schermerhorn Symphony Center, Nashville (click photos to enlarge)

At some point early in my teaching career someone told me:

They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

…or something like that. I don’t remember who said it or when, honestly. Someone might have quoted it at a faculty meeting, or as part of a motivational speech at a workshop or professional development training, or I might have read it in a book or article. Various paraphrases of this proverb exist, purportedly from a number of people including the great Maya Angelou, but the wisdom of the internet currently attributes the first known utterance of this quote to a Mormon official named Carl W. Buehner.

It doesn’t matter who said it. This idea arrived on the scene for me early in my career, and made me begin to seriously consider: what would ultimately be the impact I made on my students? What would the experience they had in my classes, in my program, have on the rest of their lives? What would they remember?


We Come To Show Activity

illustration ©2016 Veronika Gadjosova

Producing a Student Mummer’s Play

Part of a series of articles on
Preparing a School Winter Solstice Performance

The student mummer’s play presents the music teacher or choir director with a unique and wonderful element to program as part of the annual winter solstice performance: a short comical play that imparts the message of the season, with deep historical roots – featuring your students in all of the roles. Here are some tips and guidelines to help you pull this wonderful little drama together.


Nashville School of the Arts Mummer’s Play

illustration ©2016 Veronika Gadjosova

illustration ©2016 Veronika Gadjosova

Part of a series of articles on
Preparing a School Winter Solstice Performance

Nashville School of the Arts Mummer’s Play
compiled by Walter Bitner from original sources
and from an original play by Walter Bitner & Jody Kruskal1995


Father Christmas
Johnny Jack
Hobby Horse
Saint George

 *       *       *


Room, room, make room,
NSA friends and families all!
Pray, give us room to rhyme!
We come to show activity
In this glorious wintertime!
Activity of youth!
Activity of age!
Such activity as you’ve never seen on stage.


In Comes I

illustration ©2016 Veronika Gadjosova

The Student Mummer’s Play

Part of a series of articles on
Preparing a School Winter Solstice Performance

The climactic feature of my student winter solstice performance was a traditional English mummer’s play, featuring students in all of the roles. I first saw mummer’s plays at Christmas Revels productions in New York City in the early 1990s – in fact they are the only mummer’s plays I have seen (performed live) besides the ones I produced with my students. I don’t think that this tradition is very well known in the United States, and I enjoyed introducing it to my students and their families.


Nashville Symphony Formalizes Partnership With NSA

from my Instagram feed: NSA dancers wait for their cue during a performance of Swan Lake with the Nashville Symphony at Schermerhorn, February 11, 2015

from my Instagram feed: NSA dancers wait for their cue during a performance of Swan Lake with the Nashville Symphony at Schermerhorn, February 11, 2015

This week Nashville Symphony Education staff met with Oceana Sheehan, Assistant Principal of Nashville School of the Arts, and Bob Kucher, Director of Secondary Partnerships and Programs at the PENCIL Foundation, to formalize the partnership between the symphony and the school.  It was a relatively simple process and in fact a pleasant one: we filled out some paperwork and discussed our plans for the ongoing collaboration between the two institutions next season.

Although not existing “on paper” until now, the symphony and NSA have in fact had a rich and dynamic partnership for several years now: both institutions collaborate on many events and projects throughout the year that occur both at Schermerhorn and at the school’s campus on Foster Road.


How Anna Joined The Symphony

This is the story of how Anna joined the Nashville Symphony.

Nashville Symphony Principal Keyboard player Robert Marler takes Anna for a test drive on the stage of Laura Turner Hall

Nashville Symphony Principal Keyboard Robert Marler takes Anna for a test drive on the stage of Laura Turner Hall

It’s a bit of a convoluted tale – like many stories, some unexpected things happened, one thing led to another, and once you start trying to find all the threads in the fabric you realize that the real beginnings probably go back a lot further than you originally thought.

Anna is a ten year old double-manual Franco-Flemish harpsichord.