Director of Education & Community Engagement
Nashville Symphony Director of Education and Community Engagement Walter Bitner is a veteran music educator who has led a multi-faceted career as a teacher and performer. A multi-instrumentalist and singer, he is also a master teacher, composer and conductor conversant with a wide variety of musical styles and traditions. Walter has been a performing musician since childhood; he began his career as a boy soprano singing in school and church choirs and began to study piano at age 7. His work as a choral singer continued for many years into his 20s, and he has sung in symphony choruses under many directors, including Michael Deane Lamkin, Robert Summer, Julius Rudel and Robert Shaw.
He continued his piano study into college (where he also studied conducting and music education), and had performed many solo and chamber music recitals by his mid-20s. During his teens and 20s he was also active as a jazz pianist, performing both solo and in small clubs in Tampa and Gainesville, Florida, and in metropolitan New York City. In 1992 he began to focus on Renaissance and Baroque repertoire, engaging in private study on recorder with Steve Silverstein (New York Pro Musica, Music For A While) and on lute with Pat O’Brien (Mannes, Juilliard) in New York City. From 1996 to 2000, he recorded and performed throughout Florida on lute and recorders as a member of The Tampa Bay Early Music Consort, with Carl Klein, harpsichord and organ, and Theresa Villani, cello and viola da gamba.
He conducted members of The Florida Orchestra in his first orchestral concert at age 21, and has directed hundreds of student performances — instrumental and vocal music, as well as plays, musicals and traditional dance — in his many years of teaching. Walter served as music director or performing arts director at private schools in New York, Florida and Nashville from 1991 to 2007. From 2008 to 2014, he taught at Nashville School of the Arts, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools’ arts magnet high school, where he successively directed the school’s piano, choral and orchestral programs.
Walter holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Charter Oak State College, Connecticut, and he completed his teacher certification training at Belmont University in Nashville. He is licensed to teach both vocal and instrumental music, grades K-12, by the state of Tennessee.
Walter is Conductor Emeritus of Music City Youth Orchestra, which he founded and directed from 2007 to 2012. He has collaborated or performed with a wide variety of artists over the last three decades, including Pete Seeger, Tracy Silverman, The Chieftains, Music City Baroque, the Nashville Symphony and the Nashville Symphony Chorus. He has lived in Nashville with his wife and children since 2003.