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Concert and Gala Featuring Robert McDuffie, Mike Mills of R.E.M.,
and Robert Spano set for April 16

March 3, 2011

Media Contact: Billie Rampley, (478) 301-2933 or
Ticket Information: Mercer Ticket Sales (478) 301-5470 or

MACON – Renowned conductor of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Robert Spano, is coming to Mercer University’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings for a weeklong residency to conduct orchestral rehearsals and master classes from April 11-16. The week will culminate in a concert on April 16, featuring the Center for Strings Orchestra performing with Macon natives Robert McDuffie and Mike Mills of R.E.M., conducted by Spano. The concert will be held at The Grand Opera House in downtown Macon at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are $50, which includes the concert and gala reception immediately following the performance.

Spano is recognized as one of the brightest and most imaginative conductors of his generation. Now in his 10th season as music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, he and the orchestra have created a discography of 16 critically acclaimed recordings for Telarc and Deutsche Grammophon, garnering six Grammy Awards. Musical America’s 2008 “Conductor of the Year,” Spano is on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory and has received honorary doctorates from Bowling Green State University, the Curtis Institute of Music and Emory University.

“I am thrilled to be able to join Bobby McDuffie and all the other talented people with this magnificent new enterprise,” Spano said. “The establishment of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings makes it a welcome one-of-a-kind in the Southeast, even in the country.”

In only four years, the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings of the Townsend School of Music has leapt onto the international music scene as an innovator in classical music education. Assembling an unparalleled faculty of international performing artists to teach 26 carefully chosen young string players, the Center operates in a conservatory setting while offering a liberal arts education. Each academic year, the Center accepts up to 10 exceptionally talented string students from around the world. Total enrollment is limited to 12 violinists, six violists, six cellists and two double bassists.  In the current academic year, the Center’s students hail from Korea, Canada, Greece and nine states.

“It is rare that students have an opportunity to work closely with an orchestral conductor of such merit this early in their careers,” said McDuffie, founder of the McDuffie Center for Strings and the Mansfield and Genelle Jennings Chair of Music at Mercer. “The potential musical and career impact for these students to work with Maestro Spano is tremendous. The Center hopes to further solidify our standing as a great musical institute for learning and performance with many more residency and performance events like this one.”

Mills is a childhood friend of McDuffie’s, as well as the bass player and a founder of R.E.M. Though known primarily as R.E.M.’s bassist and pianist, Mills’ repertoire includes many other keyboard, string, wind and percussion instruments. He has also collaborated with numerous musicians on various projects. Mills and his R.E.M. band mates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007and into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2006. R.E.M. released its 15th album this year, “Collapse Into Now.”

“My hometown of Macon has long been known for exporting great musicians to the world,” McDuffie said. “Today, I’m proud to say that many of the world’s most promising young musicians are moving to Macon to realize their potential. Many thanks to Mercer University, especially President Underwood and Dean John Dickson for their unwavering support of our vision to provide a ‘real world’ education to talented young musicians. A huge thank you to Robert Spano and Mike Mills, two of the world’s greatest musicians, for agreeing to share their talent and enthusiasm with us as we celebrate music, a unique approach to arts education and the never ending curiosity of our students.”

Tickets to the April 16 event are $50 and can be purchased through Mercer Ticket Sales (478) 301-5470 or online at

About Robert McDuffie Center for Strings
Founded as a special institute within Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music, the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings has assembled an unparalleled faculty of international performing artists to teach talented students in pursuit of musical excellence. The McDuffie Center provides focused student interaction with these distinguished artists on a regular basis, which enhances the students’ private lessons, master classes, chamber music and orchestral sectionals, all part of their required curriculum. Combining this intensive, conservatory experience with the practicality of a specific liberal arts undergraduate curriculum, the McDuffie Center for Strings prepares its students for success in the real world.

About Townsend School of Music
Mercer is an accredited member of the National Association of Schools of Music. Mercer’s Townsend School of Music and the Townsend-McAfee Institute for Graduate Studies in Church Music offer undergraduate and graduate professional music studies in a comprehensive university environment. The School is nationally recognized for its outstanding faculty, award-winning students, performance ensembles and state-of-the-art facilities and is home to the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,200 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit