Mike Mills, of two-decade rock powerhouse R.E.M., and Robert McDuffie, internationally renowned violinist, have been close friends since they were teenagers growing up in Macon, Georgia. In the spring of 2016, inspired by the blurred lines between contemporary classical audiences, pop, and contemporary music, McDuffie commissioned Mils to write a new composition that they could share with audiences both classical and modern.
Over 2016, the friends debuted Mills' new work "Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and String Orchestra", premiering in June 2016 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Conductor Peter Oundjian. The concerto, with orchestration and additional music by David Mallamud, features acclaimed violinist McDuffie; a four-member rock band led by Composer Mills (performing on the bass and keyboard) with two electric guitarists and a drummer; and a string orchestra. Following the world premiere, the concerto was presented in Rome and at the Aspen Music Festival as well as on a 14-city U.S. tour which included the Music Center at Strathmore (Bethesda, MD), the Music Hall (Detroit, MI) and Harris Theatre (Chicago, IL).
R.E.M. was formed in 1980 in Athens, Georgia. One fo the first popular alternative rock bands, R.E.M. gained early popular attention from its first single, "Radio Free Europe", in 1981. After three decades of record-breaking CD sales, sold-out live performances int he largest rock venues in the world, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2007), R.E.M. amiably disbanded in 2011. Their legacy and fan base continues, as demonstrated by over 4.6 million fans on Facebook.
Throughout this prolific 25 year concert career, violinist Robert McDuffie has been both a champion of the core repertoire and an interpreter of the works of the most important popular classical composers of our time. He has appeared as a solo violinist with the world's foremost orchestras, including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Dusseldorf Symphony, the Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and all the major orchestras of Australia. In addition, he can be found sharing the stage with actress/playwright Anna Deveare Smith in Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail", or playing Bach for Memphis Jook dancer Li'l Buck. Philip Glass dedicated his second violin concerto, "The American Four Seasons," to McDuffie.