Mercer Center for Strings founder Robert McDuffie receives honorary degree from Emory

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Robert McDuffie holds up a violin and bow, smiling.
Robert McDuffie rehearses for "A Night of Georgia Music" in 2022. Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

ATLANTA — Robert McDuffie, founder of Mercer University’s Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, received an honorary Doctor of Music during Emory University’s commencement on May 13.

McDuffie, who also serves as Mercer’s Mansfield and Genelle Jennings Distinguished University Professor of Music, was honored by Emory as an “arts advocate, musical collaborator and violin virtuoso,” according to an Emory news release.

Born in Macon, McDuffie is an internationally recognized concert violinist who has performed as a soloist with dozens of orchestras on five continents. The Grammy-nominated and Emmy-winning performer, who plays a 1735 del Gesù violin known as the “Ladenburg,” has made numerous impacts in the music fields.

Among the accomplishments noted by Emory were McDuffie’s founding of the Center for Strings, teaching at Mercer University, and serving as the Robert McDuffie Violin Faculty Chair at the Aspen Music Festival and School. McDuffie’s iconic performances — such as “The American Four Seasons” by Philip Glass and “Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra” by Mike Mills of R.E.M., both of which were written for McDuffie — were also mentioned.

Other projects noted by Emory included McDuffie’s work as the founder of the Rome Chamber Music Festival, service on the board of directors of the Harlem School of the Arts, and collaborations like “A Night of Georgia Music,” filmed at The Grand Opera House in 2022 for distribution to PBS stations across the country.

During Emory’s commencement ceremony at Gas South Arena in Duluth, university President Gregory L. Fenves addressed McDuffie.

“Robert, you create music that tells a powerful story, coaxed to life through hands and heart as if by magic,” Fenves said.

He also praised McDuffie as a “musical ambassador” for his work around the world with “exciting interpretations of diverse repertoire that blur boundaries and break down barriers.”

Fenves noted that the Center for Strings “attracts and nurtures some of the nation’s most gifted performers.” His degree was submitted by Kimberly Jacob Arriola, dean of Laney Graduate School.