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George Shirley

Male | Performers


George Shirley is The Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Music and former Director of the Vocal Arts Division of the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. He has won international acclaim for his performances with the Metropolitan Opera, where he was the first African-American tenor to sing leading roles, and with major symphony orchestras, opera houses and festivals in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Mr. Shirley received a GRAMMY AWARD in 1968 for his role (Ferrando) in the RCA recording of Mozart's opera Così fan tutte. He has performed more than 80 operatic roles as well as oratorio and recital literature over the span of his 57-year career. A graduate of Detroit Northern High School and Wayne (State) University, he was the first African American to be assigned to a high school teaching position in vocal music in Detroit, and the first African-American member of the United States Army Chorus in Washington D.C. Upon his retirement from the UM School of Music, Theatre & Dance in 2007, friends and former students established a UM scholarship in his name for need-based students. With the invaluable assistance of his former student, Dr. A. Louise Toppin, he established the George Shirley African American Art Song and Operatic Aria Competition for high school students in January 2011. In November 2011 he received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his article “Music Education in Detroit’s Public Schools: The Struggle to Survive,” published in the June 2010 issue of NewMusicBox, the multimedia publication of New Music USA. In September 2015 he received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama at the White House. A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, he is married to the visual artist Gladys Ishop Shirley and is a proud father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.





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