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McDuffie Center Partners with Musicians From The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra To Create New Regional Orchestra

The new orchestra to be called The Macon-Mercer Symphony Orchestra is made up of musicians from the ASO and McDuffie Center students.

The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings in Mercer University's Townsend School of Music in Macon, Georgia and musicians from the world-renowned Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announce today a landmark partnership forming a regional U.S. orchestra in Central Georgia and expanding the visionary curriculum of the distinguished music school. Supported by a five-year, $300,000 grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation, 13 members of the ASO's woodwind, brass and percussion sections-including all principal woodwind and brass players-will mentor and perform with the 26 McDuffie Center students.

The new orchestra-to be called The Macon-Mercer Symphony Orchestra and made up of musicians from the ASO and McDuffie Center students-will re-establish a top-tier regional American orchestra in Macon, where the Macon Symphony ended its 41-year run in 2017. It will be conducted by Mercer Distinguished Artist Ward Stare, and annual spring and fall performances will take place beginning in the fall of 2021 at Macon's Grand Opera House. Repertoire will include standard pieces by essential classical composers, as well as work by a wide range of contemporary composers from diverse backgrounds, reflecting the true breadth and depth of symphonic music today.

Noted for its unique pairing of an intensive conservatory experience with a business-focused liberal arts curriculum to prepare extraordinary musicians for the entrepreneurial world of 21st century performance, the McDuffie Center aims to provide its students with access to some of the most distinguished faculty in the world while also providing that faculty the chance to work with some of the world's finest young musicians.

"This unique combination of conservatory-level students and elite professional musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will place Macon at the very top of American regional orchestras," said Center for Strings Founder Robert McDuffie. "We also believe this will place Mercer firmly in the ranks of the top university orchestras in the country-and benefit our students with performance and learning opportunities they simply wouldn't find anywhere else."

"A partnership with musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continues the McDuffie Center students' education in, and exposure to, orchestral music," said Dr. David Keith, dean of

the Townsend School of Music. "This is important because musical selections played by strings students are typically solo or chamber pieces. Having students work with larger orchestral pieces offers invaluable lessons-both in playing new musical selections and in benefiting from shared experiences learned by playing with a group containing more than stringed instruments. This will also provide opportunities for the winds and brass students in the School of Music to be mentored by some of the leading orchestral players in the country."

"I was so excited when the McDuffie Center launched its acclaimed music conservatory program," said Laura Ardan, Principal Clarinetist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. "I am thrilled to be part of an elite program right here in Georgia that is available to the student wishing to pursue a career in performance of great orchestral music."

"After experiencing a memorable performance of Copland's Appalachian Spring on last year's Fabian Concert Series featuring two of the principal wind players of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, I look forward to more concerts with these wonderful performers and collaborators sitting and playing alongside the young artists of the McDuffie Center," said Amy Schwartz Moretti, McDuffie Center director and Caroline Paul King Chair in Strings. "What an incredible opportunity for Mercer, Macon and the McDuffie Center young artists!"

"The Peyton Anderson Foundation is pleased to partner again with Mercer University in a continued commitment to creating music in Macon," said Foundation President, CEO and Trustee Karen Lambert. "This collaboration fills a void in our local arts and culture scene, returns life to the symphony stage and creates a premier performance opportunity in Georgia."


Laura Ardan, Principal Clarinet

Andrew Brady, Principal Bassoon

Kim Gilman, Horn

Marci Gurnow, Clarinet

Laura Najarian, Bassoon

Sam Nemec, Oboe

Jaclyn Rainey, Principal Horn

Todd Skitch, Flute

Christina Smith, Principal Flute

Stuart Stephenson, Principal Trumpet

Liz Tiscione, Principal Oboe

Mike Tiscione, Associate Principal Trumpet

Mark Yancich, Principal Timpani

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