Music News & Reviews

Mercer opens music season with Labor Day concert

The Labor Day Festival for Strings brings a select group of high schoolers from around the country to Macon to study with the faculty of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University.

Eight rising high school seniors -- four violinists, two violists and two cellists -- will arrive Friday from as far away as Seattle and as close by as Monroe to participate in master classes, coachings and rehearsals in preparation for Monday’s concert.

“The concert will include the eight participants and featured performances with Robert McDuffie; Ward Stare, who is a conductor; Amy Schwartz Moretti, who is the director of the center; and the McDuffie Center for Strings Ensemble,” said Meagan Evans, arts marketing coordinator at Mercer University. “It’s a really great chance for people to see all of them together on one stage; you don’t see that often.”

The students audition by way of YouTube videos, and the winners are chosen by Moretti and other center faculty. After an intensive weekend of work, the students will perform string quartets as well as perform with the center’s 11 faculty members.

“The students perform in two groups, so they each play a piece they have basically had just two days to prepare, and at the end, everybody plays together along with current center students,” said center administrative assistant Patty Crowe, adding that the free concert is “always packed, so people need to come early.”

The Festival for Strings, however, is just the beginning of a fall season packed with music at Mercer. The premiere performance of the Joan Stockstill Godsey Concert Series kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5 with a performance by pianist Orion Weiss in Fickling Hall.

“Weiss has performed with the major American orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and New York Philharmonic,” according to a news release.

“The Townsend School of Music is excited to have him back at Mercer; he is huge in the classical music world,” Evans said. “It’s a great chance to see a performer of that magnitude in Macon, for free.”

All of the concerts in the series will feature leading international performing keyboard artists and they are hosted by the Joan Stockstill Godsey Center for Keyboard Studies. Joan Godsey is the wife of R. Kirby Godsey, Mercer’s chancellor and its longest-serving president, and the center was created in recognition of her love of and commitment to music, according to the release.

In addition to the piano concert, the Mercer University Orchestra, led by Stare, also will perform next weekend. Admission to the 3 p.m. Sept. 7 concert is free.

For a complete schedule of Mercer music events, visit

When: 3 p.m. Monday

Where: Fickling Hall, McCorkle Music Building, Mercer University

Cost: Free

Information: 478-301-2886