Within the Townsend School of Music at Mercer, the students, faculty artists and staff of the McDuffie Center have created something unique. Besides wonderful performances and inspiring master classes, you can feel the dedication of these special students and their faculty mentors at chamber music coaching sessions and private lessons. You can experience the supportive spirit that creates the encouraging environment for them to study and grow.
The successes achieved by the Center’s young musicians since its inception in 2007, including individual growth, opportunities for future study, performance engagements, collegiality within ensemble work and generosity in giving back to their community, are a source of deep satisfaction for the entire Center faculty because we teach as a team with every member of the faculty involved in each student’s development over their years in the McDuffie Center.
Our Center students have won awards and competitions including the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) National Solo Competition, the Georgia Music Teachers Association (GMTA) Senior Performance String Competition, the Southern Division MTA Young Artist String Competition, and the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Young Artist Competition. One of our cello students won Grand Prize in the Third Gaspar Cassado International Violoncello Competition in Hachioji, Japan, made the finals of the 2017 Queen Elizabeth Cello Competition in Belgium, and also was selected to participate in the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition held in Russia. Center students have performed in the New York String Orchestra Seminar in Carnegie Hall, the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, the New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Sarasota Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, Utah Symphony, Macon Symphony and Macon Pops, among others. Several have performed as soloists with the Macon Symphony Orchestra as winners in that organization’s annual concerto competition. One of our violinists was selected artist-in-residence with the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra and was featured soloist with the orchestra along with several community appearances during the residency.
We encourage our students to volunteer and give back to their university and community. Students have performed for numerous community events, for the Macon-Bibb County schools, and for many public concerts with the Center’s founder Robert McDuffie and with me. We’ve developed an ongoing concert program at DayBreak, a local homeless shelter, and we contributed music for the video “A Little More Soul” by Gateway Macon to promote our city. The McDuffie Center String Ensemble (MCS) traditionally performs “The Star Spangled Banner” at special Mercer athletic events. The ensemble has performed with Robert McDuffie and award-winning actress and MacArthur Fellowship recipient Anna Deavere Smith in a free program, “Actions Count, Words Matter, Music Heals,” exploring stories from the civil rights movement. Maestro Robert Spano, Music Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, led the MCS Ensemble as guest conductor for the McDuffie Center Strings Extravaganza concert in Macon’s historic Grand Opera House. We’ve traveled to perform other special concerts in Atlanta, Milledgeville, Waleska, Warner Robins, and Savannah in GA; Charlotte and Davidson in NC; (le) Poisson Rouge and Carnegie Hall in NYC and the Supreme Court Grand Hall in Washington, D.C. We also contributed to the one-hour television special “A Grand Mercer Christmas” airing on PBS stations during the holiday season. We recorded a concerto written for Mr. McDuffie by Mike Mills of R.E.M. for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra and the Philip Glass Symphony No. 3 (available on the Orange Mountain Music label on Amazon and iTunes). In the spring of 2017, American Public Media’s “Performance Today” and host Fred Childs visited the Center, recording and interviewing students and faculty for national broadcast.
Academic-year activities naturally progress to summer studies. Over the years, our students have been selected for summer programs including:
- AIMS-Graz Festival in Austria
- Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival in Florida
- Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado
- Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada
- Blue Lakes Fine Arts Camp in Michigan
- Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine
- Brevard Music Center Summer Festival and Institute in North Carolina
- Chautauqua Institute in New York state
- Colorado College Summer Music Festival in Colorado Springs
- Dalí Quartet International Music Festival in Pennsylvania
- Domaine Forget International Music and Dance Academy in Quebec, Canada
- Encore Chamber Music in Ohio
- Great Wall International Music Academy in Beijing, China
- Gstaad String Academy in Switzerland
- Innsbrook Institute Summer Music Academy and Festival in Missouri
- Killington Music Festival in Vermont
- Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Blue Hill, Maine
- Meadowmount School of Music in upstate New York
- Mercer on Mission
- Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California
- National Orchestral Institute in College Park, Maryland
- National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
- Rome Chamber Music Festival Young Artist Program in Italy
- Sarasota Music Festival in Florida
- Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina
As you can imagine, we are a busy McDuffie Center with a friendly environment that encourages each student to work toward reaching full potential. You may wonder, “Where are they now?” What has happened to our recent graduates when they go on to seek their dreams? Many pursue advanced degrees at prestigious graduate schools, including:
- Cincinnati Conservatory of Music
- Cleveland Institute of Music
- Indiana University
- The Juilliard School
- Manhattan School of Music
- McGill University (Canada)
- New England Conservatory
- Northwestern University
- Peabody Conservatory
- Rice University
- San Francisco Conservatory of Music
- Southern Methodist University
- University of Michigan
- University of Southern California
Our graduates have also pursued studies in arts administration, the Artist Diploma, journalism, neuroscience, and teaching English abroad before entering the Foreign Service. One of our Artist Diploma students won the Assistant Concertmaster position of the Alabama Symphony. Most recently, three of our alumni won symphony positions: violin with the Phoenix Symphony; principal viola with the Evansville (Indiana) Philharmonic Orchestra; and principal bass with the Helsingborgs Symfoniorkester in Sweden. A violist alum was featured in a two-page spread in Strings Magazine as a young entrepreneur. It is exciting and gratifying for us at the Center to watch these dreams take shape in the lives of our alumni.
Please come and join us at the Bell House on College Street and at the McCorkle Music Building with its beautiful Neva Langley Fickling Recital Hall for any of our concerts, enjoy the elegance and history of the Bell, and stop outside a practice room to hear these young musicians at work. We would like to welcome you!