Dinner Conversation with Robert McDuffie of McDuffie Center For Strings | Arts & Culture
The Moonhanger Group's Roger Riddle sat down to dinner with McDuffie Center for Strings' founder himself, Robert McDuffie.
Read on to see what they discussed.
Written by Roger Riddle
This is one of the moments I love when it comes to working with the Moonhanger Group restaurants. I am a huge music fan, so to be able to sit down with one of the world's greatest violin soloists was about as good as it gets for me.
Robert McDuffie is a very accomplished musician. He studied at Juilliard. He has toured the world as one of the most sought after violin soloists playing today. He teamed up with composer Philip Glass to record Glass's Violin Concerto No. 2 “The American Four Seasons”. He is the head of Mercer University's McDuffie Center For Strings at the Townsend School Of Music. With all of that, if you ask me, the best thing about Robert McDuffie is, he's from right here in Macon, and he still loves his hometown.
McDuffie just took some of the very talented artists from the Center For Strings to New York where they performed “The American Four Seasons” at Le Poisson Rouge on February 4th.
I sat down to dinner with McDuffie in December around Christmas time. We had a wonderful conversation about music, his career, The Center For Strings, and Macon. This is just Part One in a multi-part conversation with violinist, Robert McDuffie.
RR: I saw you last Saturday at the Grand Opera House. It was really cool that PBS decided to come to Macon to record the concert. But, I'm sure you had a hand in making that happen. How did you do it?
RM: Actually this was a Mercer initiative. The McAfee family, who endowed the Townsend School of Music, wanted to do this for years. When I came on the scene six years ago they were still talking about it. I said, "Let's just be patient. Let's just wait til we have a real product to show." You don't have that second chance to make a first impression so you want it to be really good. It was then that I was dreaming of starting the Center For Strings. I knew it would be good eventually and even just after a few years I thought we sounded good enough to present to the country.
Larry Brumley When Larry Brumley, the Senior Vice President for Marketing Communications at Mercer, was still at Baylor he used a production company called Brandenberg Productions that did Christmas At Baylor about 8 or 10 years ago. They did really good work. They do a lot of the Boston Pops specials. So they came in and produced the thing. Former musicians who are now heading up the company and had a really good track record. They're very well respected and I liked them a lot.
From what I understand GPB is going to use it as their pledge show December 2013. Then we're just going to just throw it out to 300 PBS channels around the country and see who picks it up. I was honored to be asked to MC the thing. I still love my home town and I'm proud of it. And I want more people to know about it.
**Just then our server, Michael Collins, visited our table to explain the menu. One of the items available for that day was a Southern Style Lasagne. The lasagne was completely crafted in house. It was made with smoked BBQ chipped pork, creamed collards, a ricotta cheese made by our Sous Chef, Dan Couch, corn meal noodles made by our Chef de Cuisine, Brad Stevens, and a tomato sauce made by our Executive Chef, Doug Sanneman. After Michael explained the new items, we turned to conversation on the Dovetail dining room.**
RM: This is a great room.
RR: Thanks. If you could only imagine what this room used to look like. This entire upstairs was all storage and junk and stuff that had been thrown in corners since 1976 when The Rookery first opened. It was nothing but saw dust and dirt. The idea came about after us doing all the Locavore Specials downstairs at The Rookery. People really took on to it so we began to think, 'Why don't we do an entire restaurant like this. We have all that room upstairs.' So we went to cleaning this space out and tearing it out. I wish I could put in your head what this room looked like before because watching it evolve, when the day finally came when it was ready I looked around and said, “I can't believe we did this.”
The coolest part is, the wood around the base of the bar, the wood behind the kudu head -the multicolored slats- and the wood in the wine cabinets in the private dining room is also multicolored, that's all wood where we tore out the floor to build the staircase. So that's all wood that we reclaimed to make some of the fixtures up here.