FORT MYERS, Fla. (Sept. 14, 2023) – The Southwest Florida Symphony, Lee County’s only professional orchestra and fourth oldest in the state, will kick off its 63rd season with “R.E.M. Explored” on Saturday, Oct. 21. The first Brave New Pops concert of the season will feature selections from R.E.M.’s legendary playlist newly imagined for the orchestra, with R.E.M.’s bass player Mike Mills performing alongside Grammy-nominated violinist Robert McDuffie. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. at Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall in Fort Myers.

This symphonic masterpiece will showcase the larger-than-life sound of the Southwest Florida Symphony, perfectly blending classical and pop with R.E.M.’s biggest hits from the 80s and 90s, including “Everybody Hurts,” “Supernatural Superstitions,” and “Man on the Moon.” As one of the seminal groups of its generation, R.E.M. has always maintained their creative edge, garnering numerous awards and touring the world throughout their storied career. The incredible concert will conclude with Mills performing his eponymous “Concerto for Violin, Rock Band, and Orchestra.”

As one of the founding members of R.E.M., the internationally acclaimed rock band from Athens, GA, Mills is widely recognized for his vocal harmonies and intricate bass lines, often referred to by fans as the band’s “secret weapon.” Born in Orange County, CA, Mills moved to Macon, GA, 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. 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 continue to actively pursue further musical adventures and other artistic and humanistic pursuits.

McDuffie enjoys a dynamic and multifaceted career. In addition to appearing as soloist with the world’s foremost orchestras on five continents, he has shared the stage with high-profile musicians such as Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell, the late Gregg Allman, and actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith. Philip Glass dedicated his Second Violin Concerto, “The American Four Seasons,” to McDuffie and he has performed it more than 100 times around the world. Additionally, he has an extensive discography, including his recently released recording, “Icons,” with pianist Elizabeth Pridgen. McDuffie is the founder of the Rome Chamber Music Festival in Italy, where he was awarded the Premio Simpatia by the mayor of Rome and the Premio delle Muse in Florence. He is also the founder of the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings at Mercer University in his hometown of Macon, GA.

The Southwest Florida Symphony’s Brave New Pops series is sponsored by Ellie Fox and Seminole Casino Hotel.

The remainder of the symphony’s 63rd season will feature a diverse lineup of performances highlighting the best of classical, pop, jazz, rock and more led by Maestro Radu Paponiu and accompanied by world-renowned guest artists.

To purchase tickets or learn more, visit

The Southwest Florida Symphony made its debut as a community orchestra on April 15, 1961, playing in schools and community centers, with a roster of only 24 volunteer musicians. Today, the symphony boasts a roster of 70 world-class professional musicians and is Lee County’s only fully professional orchestra and fourth oldest in the state. The Southwest Florida Symphony’s 63rd year continues the orchestra’s tradition of artistic excellence and innovation as Music Director Maestro Radu Paponiu leads another season of spectacular performances. Maestro Paponiu, the sixth music director in the organization’s history, also serves as the associate conductor and youth orchestra director for the Naples Philharmonic in addition to guest-conducting with orchestras throughout the United States and Europe.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Symphony, upcoming season performances and subscription and ticketing information, visit or call 239-418-1500.


Amy Ginsburg, Southwest Florida Symphony, 239-418-0996, Angela Bell, Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and PR, 239-275-5758,