Move to new digs could come soon for McDuffie Center
Adriel Taslim has been playing violin for all but six of his 23 years, and hed like as much time as he can to practice and perform in a new space being renovated for the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings.
McDuffie was talking about it five years ago when I first got here. Its been a dream of his, and hes been working on it. Im just glad I get to be in it before I have to go, said Taslim, who hails from Redding, Calif.
And while about 20 musicians from the center performed during a Rotary Club of Macon luncheon Monday, its not yet clear when that move-in date at the historic Beall House may come.
Larry Brumley, a Mercer University senior vice president, said the date depends on when historic tax credits for the property can be sold, which could be a matter of days -- or months.
The musicians performed Samuel Barbers Adagio for Strings, Antonio Vivaldis Summer from Four Seasons and Jay Ungars Ashokan Farewell to heavy applause from members of the Rotary Club.
Several students said Monday theyre looking forward to the big move. Reed Tucker, a 19-year-old freshman from Florida, has problems finding vacant practice rooms on Mercers main Macon campus that are big enough for his instrument, an upright bass.
Im really excited, he said. The practice rooms are supposed to be a lot better.
McDuffie said Monday that some students are practicing at 2 a.m. or even later just to find the space.
Im just so incredibly proud of all of them, McDuffie told reporters. Theyre realizing their potential in Macon, Georgia.
McDuffie also announced a $500,000 pledge from the Jennings family of Hawkinsville, which previously endowed McDuffies university chair. The money, spread out over five years, will help with the centers operations. For example, the center wont have to ask the university for money to send a student to Japan for a competition, which recently happened. McDuffie compared some of his students to a Heisman Trophy winner and an Olympic gold medalist.
McDuffie said hes also been discussing curriculum changes, which could reduce center students exposures to music history in favor of classes on business and law, for example. The centers students will need to know how to read a contract, raise money and work with nonprofit boards of directors in their careers, he said.
Noah Fields, a 25-year-old from Rochester, N.Y., whos working on a second bachelors degree, said the Beall House on College Street will help differentiate the Center for Strings. The property may be most widely known as the former site of the Bealls 1860 restaurant from the 1980s and 90s.
The building is being renovated into practice and performance spaces. The paint is fresh, but electrical fixtures havent yet been hooked up.
Fields said, like former mansions that house much of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Macons Beall House will help the Mercer center.
It will give the center a geographic identity that it doesnt have now, he said.
That also has downsides, noted Fields, who like many of the centers students doesnt have a car to get between buildings.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.