The Music of R.E.M.
Arranged for Full Orchestra
By Carl Marsh & David Mallamud
Mike Mills Concerto for Violin, Rock Band & Orchestra
Performed by: Mike Mills (Electric Bass/Piano/Guitar) and Robert McDuffie (Violin)
This symphonic event opens with selections from R.E.M.’s legendary playlist newly reimagined for orchestra and concludes with R.E.M.’s Mike Mills performing his eponymous Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and Orchestra alongside Grammy-nominated violinist Robert McDuffie.
Mike Mills is one of the founding members of R.E.M., the internationally-acclaimed rock band from Athens, GA. His trademark vocal harmonies and intricate bass lines led fans and critics alike to dub him the band’s “secret weapon.”
Born in Orange County, California, Mills moved to Macon, Georgia, where he and drummer Bill Berry attended the same high school. The pair left Macon to attend the University of Georgia in Athens where they teamed up with guitarist Peter Buck and singer Michael Stipe, and began writing songs for the band which would become R.E.M. The group’s first show was at a friend’s birthday party in an abandoned church on April 5, 1980.
Mills, the son of a tenor who sang on The Ed Sullivan Show and in the Naval Aviation Choir, developed a keen ear for harmonies and a talent for playing instruments at an early age. He has always been known for his musicianship, songwriting, vocals, and production sensibilities in his work with R.E.M., as well as his side projects and solo works. He also contributed piano, keyboards and assorted other instruments. After thirty-one years and more than eighty million records sold, R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, but the band members remain good friends and actively pursue further musical adventures and other artistic and humanistic pursuits.
R.E.M., one of the seminal groups of its generation, won numerous awards and toured most corners of the world throughout their storied career. Despite several hit singles such as Everybody Hurts, Losing My Religion, Man on the Moon, Leaving New York, and The One I Love, R.E.M. always maintained their creative edge, and along with it, critical acclaim and their loyal and supportive fan base.
Grammy-nominated violinist, Robert McDuffie, enjoys a dynamic and multi-faceted career. While appearing as soloist with the world’s foremost orchestras, he has also shared the stage with Chuck Leavell and the late Gregg Allman in Midnight Rider and with actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Philip Glass dedicated his Second Violin Concerto, The American Four Seasons, to Mr. McDuffie. Mike Mills of the iconic band R.E.M. has composed a Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra for him. Robert McDuffie is the founder of both the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy and the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in his native city of Macon, Georgia. Mr. McDuffie holds the Robert McDuffie Violin Faculty Chair at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
Robert McDuffie has appeared as soloist with most of the major orchestras of the world. He gave the world premiere of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons with the Toronto Symphony and completed a thirty-city U.S. tour with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, pairing the Glass Four Seasons with the Vivaldi Four Seasons. The Mills Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra was also premiered with the Toronto Symphony, followed by performances at the Rome Chamber Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, and a three-week tour of the U.S.
Robert McDuffie recorded The American Four Seasons with the London Philharmonic and Marin Alsop on Philip Glass’ Orange Mountain Music label. The Mike Mills Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra is also on the Orange Mountain Music label. His acclaimed Telarc and EMI recordings include the violin concertos of Mendelssohn, Bruch, Adams, Glass, Barber, Rózsa, Bernstein, William Schuman, and Viennese violin favorites. He has been profiled on NBC’s Today, CBS Sunday Morning, PBS’s Charlie Rose, A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts, and in the Wall Street Journal.
In 2017, he toured the U.S. with the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, alternating the Barber Violin Concerto with the Glass Violin Concerto No.1. He returned to the Aspen Music Festival. Recent performances include first appearances in Auckland, New Zealand; the Orchestre National de Lille; the Bernstein Serenade with the Atlanta, Hawaii, and Virginia Symphonies; the Mills Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra with the Naples and Buffalo Symphonies; and the Glass Four Seasons along with the Mills Concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony.
As founder of the Rome Chamber Music Festival, Robert McDuffie has been awarded the prestigious Premio Simpatia by the Mayor of Rome in recognition of his contribution to the city’s cultural life. He is also the founder of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in his hometown of Macon, Georgia, where he holds the Genelle and Mansfield Jennings Distinguished University Professor Chair. He plays a 1735 Guarneri del Gesù violin, known as the “Ladenburg”. The instrument is owned by a limited partnership formed by Mr. McDuffie. He lives in New York City.