This Labor Day marked the first concert for the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings of the season. It was a standing room only event, with the lines starting to form an hour before the performance. The guest festival artists were comprised of eight high school students, some of whom are joint-enrolled in college and high school. At least one student has already started her professional career. The young musicians have studied no less than seven years; many of the students have been performing for over 10 years.
The guest festival artists were: Isaac Allen, violin; Misty Drake, violin; Erika Gray, viola; Phil Hall, viola; Robyn Neidhold, cello; Helenmarie Vassiliou, violin; Dustin Wilkes-Kim, violin; and Nomin Zolaya, cello. The performances ranged from Vivaldi, to Dvorak, Beethoven, Grieg and even American composer George Gershwin. The festival artists were accompanied by McDuffie
Center for Strings members, as well as the center director, Amy Schwartz Moretti and founder, Robert McDuffie. This year, the Labor Day Festival took place over three days. In previous years, the intensive workshop has run for four days. High school seniors from across the country and around the world auditioned to participate in the Festival. Eight students were accepted and received scholarship covering their room and board for their stay at Mercer. Moretti said, “ The Festival serves as a recruiting opportunity for the Center for Strings, and is a chance for top high-school students to get an up-close look at how the Center works. Participants rehearse in chamber groups, attend master classes in their individual instrument, and perform with Center faculty and current students in the closing concert.” As encouragement to these prospective students, Drew Alexander Forde, a senior Viola Performance major in the McDuffie Center for Strings shared his testimony about the Center. “The Center drives home the importance in being proficient on your instrument as well as your ability to market yourself, interact with others, and understand the workings of being an independent contractor - all essential skills to have if you want to be a successful musician in the 21st century,” said Forde.