McDuffie Names Director of New Center for Strings
September 22, 2006

Judith Lunsford
(678) 547-6425
(404) 277-2268

MACON, GA – Internationally renowned violinist Robert McDuffie announced today the establishment of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in Macon and named Amy Schwartz Moretti, who currently serves as Concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, as the director. 


"The Center is incredibly fortunate to have Amy as its director and to have her in a major role in developing this elite program," said McDuffie, who has served as Distinguished University Professor of Music at Mercer since 2004. "In addition to being one of America's top young violinists, she is an inspiring teacher. She will change lives through her teaching. I never for one moment had anyone else in mind for this role."


The Robert McDuffie Center for Strings is a special institute within the Townsend School of Music of Mercer on the Macon campus. The highly-selective program will accept up to 10 to 12 extraordinarily talented string students for the 2007-2008 academic year. Total enrollment will be limited to 26 students, which will include 12 violinists, six violists, six cellists and two double bassists. 


The focus of the Center is to provide highly talented string students the opportunity to learn with some of the nation's renowned string musicians, who will hold the title of distinguished artist at the McDuffie Center. Every student will have direct access to each distinguished artist during their regular monthly visits on campus, and will participate in private lessons, master classes, chamber music coaching sessions, and orchestral sectional work.


The McDuffie faculty will impart a sweeping view of music and demonstrate the kinds of career paths available from completion of an advanced string program. Many of the distinguished artists who will teach hold principal positions at major symphony orchestras across the nation, and all maintain prominent solo and chamber music careers.


McDuffie has personally selected the teachers for the Center. Among those who will teach are Andrés Díaz, concert cellist; David Halen, Concertmaster of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra; Christopher Rex, Principal Cellist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra; Sabina Thatcher, Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; and Paul Murphy, Associate Principal Violist of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.


Andreas Cardenes, Concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony and Roberto Diaz, violist and president of the Curtis Institute of Music, will make two visits per year as members of the Diaz Trio. During those visits they will coach and teach master classes. Eugene Levinson, principal double bassist of the New York Philharmonic, will join the faculty in 2008.


"Students selected for the Center will be Mercer students, which means they will receive an academically well-rounded education that a conservatory cannot provide," McDuffie explained. "However, their music instruction will be that of conservatory quality, giving them the best of both worlds and preparing them for the real world."


McDuffie, who grew up in Macon and studied at The Juilliard School, envisions the Center filling a void for music students, particularly for those in the South, who want a conservatory-quality music education within a broader academic program. He sees great benefits to string students earning a nationally recognized academic education to complement their extensive music instruction.


"The McDuffie Center will train musicians not for short-term glory, but for long-term artistry and curiosity," he said. "The students will not be trained just to win competitions, but to have rich, productive and satisfying careers."


Moretti will join the University in January 2007 to prepare for the incoming class next fall. In addition to her role as director of the Center, she will hold the academic rank of associate professor as well as the Caroline Paul King Chair in Strings.


As director, Moretti will be responsible for the overall management of the Center, coordinating the schedule of the distinguished artists, as well as the coaching, lessons and master classes, and the recruitment of students in coordination with the faculty. In addition to organizing and coaching chamber music groups, she will give private lessons to the Center's violin students and a handful of selected high school students preparing to enter the Center. She will perform with the Center's faculty on a regular basis.


"Mercer is fortunate to have Amy Schwartz Moretti working with Robert McDuffie to develop this conservatory-level center at the University," said Mercer President William D. Underwood. "Their vision, along with their energy and commitment, is quickly making this center one of the University's nationally recognized programs. The University is very grateful to Mercer Trustee Dr. Spencer King and his family for providing the support that has helped in attracting Ms. Moretti to the McDuffie Center."


Moretti brings to the Mercer position both immense talent and solid experience in the music world. She joined the Oregon Symphony as its Concertmaster in 2004. She also performs with the Oregon Symphony Strings Quartet and Moretti Duo. Formerly, she was Concertmaster of The Florida Orchestra, a position she held for five years. She co-founded and serves as Artistic Director of the Bay Area Music Summer Chamber Workshop for young musicians in Florida. 


Moretti, who appears frequently as a soloist, performed her solo concerto debut at Carnegie Hall in 1998. Her 2006 performance of the Alban Berg Violin Concerto with the Oregon Symphony and Music Director Carlos Kalmar was selected for broadcast on KBPS All-Classical and OPB Radio.


As a chamber musician, Moretti has appeared in both Carnegie Hall and Weill Recital Hall; at the Aspen, Astoria, Chamber Music Northwest, Hamakua, Margess International of Switzerland, Olympic, San Miguel de Allende, and Sarasota music festivals; and in venues as diverse as the Dali Museum, Washington & Lee University and the Crystal Cathedral.


"This new position will give me direct involvement guiding and teaching gifted string students along with internationally renowned violinist Robert McDuffie and distinguished artist/teachers at the Center," said Moretti.  "I will also have numerous opportunities to become personally involved in more solo and chamber music performances."


In talking about leaving her position as Concertmaster with the Oregon Symphony, Moretti said, "I wasn't prepared to leave so soon from this community that I absolutely adore, but the uniqueness of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings and my desire to do more chamber music and solo work has convinced me this is the right course to pursue at this time in my life. To be involved with something at the ground breaking stages is also exciting and intriguing."


As a student of Donald Weilerstein, she earned her bachelor and master of music degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she was valedictorian. She has studied chamber music with Isaac Stern, Earl Carlyss, Peter Salaaf and members of the Orion, Emerson, Cleveland, Juilliard, Tokyo, Guarneri, American and Cavani string quartets. Other teachers include Zaven Melikian of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Margaret Pardee of The Juilliard School, and Joanne Bath of East Carolina University.


About the Townsend School of Music of Mercer University:

The Townsend School of Music of Mercer, along with its Townsend-McAfee Institute for Graduate Studies in Church Music, offers undergraduate and graduate professional music studies in a comprehensive university environment. It is nationally recognized for its outstanding faculty, award-winning students, performance ensembles and state-of-the-art facilities. The School is housed in the McCorkle Music Building, which includes the Neva Langley Fickling Recital Hall, one of the best performance venues in the Southeast. The School is an institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music.



About Mercer University:

Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education, the University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; four regional academic centers across the state; a university press; teaching hospitals in Macon and Savannah; an educational partnership with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit





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