Atlanta Music Scene

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Classic! Concerto by R.E.M.'s Mike Mills to premiere in Athens in October

R.E.M. founding member Mike Mills, seen here playing with the band a few years ago, has written a concerto for violin, rock band and string orchestra which will make its Athens premiere later this month. AJC file photo

And now for something completely different from the rock star.

R.E.M.-er Mike Mills has written a concerto.

The "Rock Concerto" -- actually the complete description is "Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra" -- will have its Athens premiere on Oct. 24 at the UGA Performing Arts Center. Mills, a founding member of the iconic, Athens-centric band R.E.M., composed the concerto for his long-time friend Robert McDuffie.

That's some friend. Then again, McDuffie brings a lot to the equation himself as a Grammy Award-nominated violinist who studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music.

“Mike has created a beautiful and joyful concerto," McDuffie said. " It’s a work that goes straight to your heart, and by the end you’ll want to dance and move to the South.”

In fact, the concerto had its world premiere up north -- way up north -- in June, when Mills and McDuffie performed it along with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. And that wasn't even the only time this year that Mills found himself playing in a one-of-a-kind ensemble.

Back in April, he joined a handful of other Georgia rock greats in "Phil and the Busters," which played at the party thrown by Atlanta-based Mother Nature Network (MNN) the night before the annual high-profile White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington D.C.

Organized by Rolling Stones keyboardist and MNN founder Chuck Leavell, the band also included Widespread Panic founder/lead singer John “JB” Bell and and Paul Riddle, the drummer for the Marshall Tucker Band.

“D.C. can be a very interesting place to be, especially at this time of year,” Mills, who attended the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner, chuckled to the AJC in an interview before the gig. “So I figured it would be fun to play with some of my favorite musicians there this weekend.”

Related: R.E.M., Rolling Stones, Widespread Panic members to play together in DC

Fun? More like insane, as entry to the party became one of the most sought-after invites on a weekend filled to the gills with power parties. I

t should be a bit easier to attend the Oct. 24 concerto premiere, which will join performances of John Adams' "Road Movies" and Symphony No. 3 by Philip Glass on the program. Tickets for the concert are $67 to $77 and can be purchased at the Performing Arts Center, online at or by calling the box office at 706-542-4400 or toll free at 888-289-8497.






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About the Author

Jill Vejnoska has spent two decades as a news and features reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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