Robert McDuffie Center for Strings

Robert McDuffie, violin
The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings Orchestra
and Margery McDuffie Whately, piano

In the Sanctuary

Saturday • October 6, 2018
5:00 pm

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“He’s a treasure. A musician of probing intelligence, a violinist of authority, and force of great vitality.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Emotional spontaneity, imperturbable virtuosity and an ever-sweet tone.”
Los Angeles Times

“McDuffie has a brilliant technique as well as spontaneous and clearly delineated emotion.”
Die Welt


Grammy-nominated violinist Robert McDuffie enjoys a dynamic and multi-faceted career. While appearing as soloist with the world’s foremost orchestras, he can also be found sharing the stage with Gregg Allman and Chuck Leavell in “Midnight Rider,” with actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith in Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” or playing Bach for Memphis Jook dancer Li’l Buck. Philip Glass dedicated his Second Violin Concerto, “The American Four Seasons,” to Mr. McDuffie. Mike Mills of the iconic band R.E.M. has composed a Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra for him. Robert McDuffie is the founder of both the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy and the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in his native city of Macon, Georgia.

Robert McDuffie has appeared as soloist with most of the major orchestras of the world, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics; the Chicago, San Francisco, National, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, St. Louis, Montreal, and Toronto Symphonies; the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Minnesota Orchestras; the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the North German Radio Orchestra, the Düsseldorf Symphony, the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, the Hamburg Symphony, Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Jerusalem Symphony, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico, Orquesta Sinfónica de Mineria, the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra; and all of the major orchestras of Australia.

His recent appearances abroad have been at the Royal Festival Hall in London with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Philharmonie in Cologne, the Seoul and Daejeon Arts Centers in Korea, the National Concert Hall in Taipei, the Tonhalle Düsseldorf, the Brucknerhaus in Linz, the Musikhalle and the Staatsoper in Hamburg, and at the National Theater in Santo Domingo.

Mr. McDuffie gave the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons with the Toronto Symphony. He completed a thirty-city U.S. tour with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, pairing the Glass Four Seasons with the Vivaldi Four Seasons. He has also played the Glass with the National Symphony of Mexico, the Düsseldorf Symphony, the Hamburg Ballet; the Nashville, Louisiana, San Diego, Dallas, San Antonio, and Colorado Symphonies; the Poznan Philharmonic of Poland, the Prague Philharmonia at the Prague Spring Festival, the Scottish Ensemble in Glasgow, the Amsterdam Sinfonietta in Holland and Belgium, at the Belgrade Music Festival, at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado; and, paired with the Vivaldi Four Seasons, with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra at the Zurich Tonhalle, at the St. Christopher Festival in Vilnius, Lithuania, and with the Israel Chamber Orchestra in Tel Aviv.

Robert McDuffie recorded The American Four Seasons with the London Philharmonic and Marin Alsop on Philip Glass’ Orange Mountain Music label. Mike Mill’s Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra is also on the Orange Mountain Music Label. His acclaimed Telarc and EMI recordings include the violin concertos of Mendelssohn, Bruch, Adams, Glass, Barber, Rózsa, Bernstein, William Schuman, and Viennese violin favorites. He has been profiled on NBC’s Today, CBS Sunday Morning, PBS’s Charlie Rose, A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts, and in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

He has recently performed The American Four Seasons with the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings Ensemble in New York City at (Le) Poisson Rouge and returned to Hamburg for additional performances with the Hamburg Ballet.

The world premiere of Mills Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and Orchestra with the Toronto Symphony was followed by performances of the Mills Concerto at the Rome Chamber Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival and a three week U.S. tour in fall 2016.

In 2017, he will tour the U.S. with the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, alternating the Barber Violin Concerto with the Glass Violin Concerto No.1, as well as return to the Aspen Music Festival for his annual visit. Future plans include his first appearances in Auckland, New Zealand additional appearances with actor/playwright Anna Deavere Smith, and a return to Korea.

As founder of the Rome Chamber Music Festival, Robert McDuffie has been awarded the prestigious Premio Simpatia by the Mayor of Rome in recognition of his contribution to the city’s cultural life. He served for ten years on the board of directors of the Harlem School of the Arts in New York City where he was chairman of the artistic and education committee. Mr. McDuffie holds the Mansfield and Genelle Jennings Distinguished University Professor Chair at Mercer University in his native city of Macon, Georgia. He plays a 1735 Guarneri del Gesù violin, known as the “Ladenburg”, This instrument is owned by a limited partnership formed by Mr. McDuffie. 

 Robert McDuffie Center for Strings was founded as a special institute within Mercer University’s Townsend School of Music.  Enrollment is limited to 26 students: twelve violinists, six violists, six cellists and two double bassists. Students accepted to the Center receive a full-tuition University scholarship.

The distinguished artists of the McDuffie Center perform, collaborate and record with the finest orchestras, string ensembles and conductors around the world. They are at the top of their fields. And, each McDuffie Center student interacts with these distinguished artists on a regular basis, which enhances the students’ private lessons, master classes, chamber music coaching sessions and orchestral sectionals, all a part of their required curriculum.

Combining this intensive, conservatory experience with the practicality of a specific business-oriented curriculum, the McDuffie Center for Strings prepares the entrepreneurial musician for success in the real world.

Enrichment opportunities abound within the Center for Strings and the Townsend School of Music. Partnerships with the prestigious Rome Chamber Music FestivalAspen Music FestivalBrevard Music FestivalAmelia Island Chamber Music Festival and New World Symphony in Miami provide McDuffie Center students with additional performance and learning possibilities.

The McDuffie Center for Strings’ distinguished artists, faculty and staff are dedicated to the development of student artists pursuing personal and musical excellence.

“Whatley … a phenomenally accomplished pianist” 
“She brings to the music the very thing it needs most yet is the most difficult to achieve, a sense of vulnerability.”
Fanfare Magazine
 Margery McDuffie Whatley performs from coast to coast as piano soloist and as chamber musician.  A native of Macon, Georgia, she has performed at the United States Supreme Court at the request of former Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun; at the World Congress Center in Atlanta for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony; and at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion with her brother, Robert McDuffie, an internationally acclaimed violinist with whom she frequently collaborates. Concerto appearances include the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, Macon Symphony Orchestra, Chicago’s Lake Shore Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta’s DeKalb Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Bremerton Symphony Orchestra.  She has performed in Rome, Italy at the Rome Chamber Music Festival.  With a strong interest in making classical music accessible to people of all ages and listening experiences, Margery Whatley has presented a series of outreach programs throughout cities in Georgia, California, Iowa and Illinois.

Margery Whatley received her Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in piano performance at the University of Southern California where she studied with John Perry and was named the most outstanding piano doctoral graduate. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music where she studied with Frank Weinstock. She has also studied with George Lucktenberg, formerly of Converse College.

Margery relocated to Birmingham, Alabama in July 2012, from Missoula, Montana.  While in Missoula, Margery was featured on Montana Public Radio, served as a visiting professor/sabbatical replacement at the University of Montana and taught regularly at the University of Montana Summer Piano Camp.  She also served as president of the String Orchestra of the Rockies Board of Directors and president of the Missoula Music Teachers Association.  Prior to her five years in Montana, she was a tenured Associate Professor of Music at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where she also served as Chair of the Department of Music and where she received the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award.  She has served on the boards of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra and the Huntsville Youth Orchestra, and she has also served as secretary of the Arts Council and vice president of the Huntsville Chamber Music Guild.  She was also an active member of the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra Guild.  From 2012-2013, she was a Visiting Associate Professor of Music at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.  She joined the music faculty at Birmingham-Southern College and Birmingham-Southern College Conservatory of Fine and Performing Arts in the fall of 2014.  Active in several organizations, she is vice-president and former president of the Birmingham Metro Music Forum and serves on the executive board of the Alabama Music Teachers Association.  She recently received the Steinway & Sons 2016 Top Teacher Award.

Margery Whatley’s three CDs, Piano Reflections – Encore FavoritesMargery McDuffie Whatley plays Bach, Haydn, Brahms and Ravel; and From Mozart to Gershwin, have received rave reviews from Fanfare Magazine and American Record Guide.