Instrumental Diplomacy

Listening to the Rome Chamber Music Festival in the Eternal City

In 2002, violinist Robert McDuffie moved with his wife, Camille, and their two young children from New York to Rome. It was during this six-month sabbatical that the southern-born Juilliard graduate became overwhelmed with desire: "I wanted to create a performing arts festival that would encourage younger musicians to be inspired by Rome the way I had been." And so he did. The 47-year-old paired up with Italian venture capitalist Simone Chiarella and cofounded the Rome Chamber Music Festival, which debuted at the Villa Aurelia that spring. Aside from a new, slightly larger home at the fresco-laden Oratorio del Gonfalone near Piazza Francese and a rotating roster of esteemed musicians—this year's list includes Grammy Award winner Lawrence Dutton, Alessandro Carbonare, and the Juilliard Calder Quartet—the eclectic mix of American and Italian board members adds an alluring layer of dyna-mism to the festival as well as the small fund-raising events that surround it over the course of the year. Unlike so many other musical gatherings, this one is not restricted solely to music devotees: The board members' backgrounds span all arenas, ranging from business (in the case of Chiarella and former New York investment banker Greg Muth) to diplomacy (former U.S. ambassador to Italy Mel Sembler) and the arts. "When I lis-tened to Bobby talk about how inspired he was, I wanted to be a part of the festival immediately," says actress Judith Light, another board member, who recently hosted a fund-raiser at her Los Angeles home. Rome-based Italian architect Mirta Aureggi explains how McDuffie's brainchild draws such an intriguing crowd: "Though the music is fantastic, it's more about coming together with friends of friends in Italy and getting to know the musicians over a course of two weeks." This year's festival runs from June 13 to 22. For more information, visit www.romechamberfestival.org.