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This profile was last updated on 7/7/14  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Mr. George I. Shirley

Wrong George I. Shirley?

Professor Emeritus

Local Address: Detroit, Michigan, United States
University of Michigan
1500 E. Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109
United States

Company Description: The University of Michigan-Dearborn is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout the 2009/2010 academic year. Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres...   more

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • honorary degrees
    Wilberforce University
  • honorary degrees
    Lake Forest College
  • honorary degrees
    Montclair State College
191 Total References
Web References
George ... [cached]
George Shirley
George Shirley
George Shirley
If there is one person who can be credited with opening the doors for modern black tenors it would have to be George Irving Shirley, a remarkable man of remarkable firsts who balances his joy of performing with a joy of developing talent in others.
Currently the Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Voice at the University of Michigan, Mr. Shirley, known as one of opera's most versatile tenors, has enjoyed a trail blazing international career in music.
Born in Indianapolis on April 18, 1934, George as a four year old joined his mother Daisy and father Irving performing for their local church. At 5, George won a local talent competition singing a Bing Crosby song.
When the family moved to Detroit in 1940 where his father went to work building cars, George continued his to develop his musical abilities, going on to win a scholarship to Wayne State University where he graduated with a B.S. in Music Education.
In 1955, George became Detroit's first black high school music teacher. The following year, drafted into the Army, he became the first black man to sing with the U.S. Army chorus. It was during this time that he was encouraged to pursue opera.
His first public opera performance, Die Fledermaus , took place in 1959 with a small Woodstock, NY opera company. A year later, George won the American Opera Auditions and was offered the role of Rodolfo in Puccini's La Boheme in Milan, Italy. This was followed in 1961 by an offer from the Metropolitan Opera after winning first prize in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions where he performed Nessun Dorma. There, George Shirley became the first black male to receive a contract from the Met and the second black male to perform there.
George performed 28 major roles in 26 operas during his 11 seasons with the Met, appearing more often than any other tenor. With a voice praised for its richness and flexibility, he was in demand by major opera houses in the US and internationally. He performed for the Royal Opera (Covent Garden), the Chicago Lyric, Netherlands, Scottish, San Francisco, New York City and Michigan opera companies
George Shirley has sung with many of the world's great orchestras and conductors-the London Symphony with Maazel, Boston Symphony with Ozawa, Chicago Symphony with Solti, New York Philharmonic with Bernstein and La Scala Orchestra with von Karajan-and he has appeared at such summer festivals as Glyndebourne, Edinburgh, Spoleto, Santa Fe and Aspen.
He has recorded for RCA, Columbia, Decca, CRI, Angel, Vanguard and Philips Records and received a Grammy Award in 1968 for his role (Ferrando) in the prize-winning recording of Mozart's Così Fan Tutte. His solo performance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was broadcast over CBS in July 1990.
George Shirley has, in a career that spans more than 50 years, performed more than 80 operatic roles with many of the world's most renowned conductors (Solti, Klemperer, Stravinsky, Ormandy, von Karajan, Colin Davis, Böhm, Ozawa, Haitink, Boult, Leinsdorf, Boulez, DePriest, Krips, Cleva, Dorati, Pritchard, Bernstein, Maazel and others).
While continuing a distinguished performing career, George was asked to teach voice at the University of Maryland in 1980. In 1985 the University awarded him the Distinguished Scholar Teacher award. He returned to his hometown Detroit in 1987 as a professor of voice at the University of Michigan where the George Shirley Voice Scholarship was established in 2008. Videmus offers a $5,000 prize to the winner of the annual George Shirley African-American Art Song and Operatic Aria Competition.
Although a trailblazer, George says he had role models.
"All of these people had a dignity about them that I admired," George Shirley said.
George Shirley, DMA, Tenor Distinguished Professor of Music, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ottley Music School - About Us, 4 Oct 2014 [cached]
GEORGE I. SHIRLEY, Tenor, Distinguished Professor of Music, Concert Artist , University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,MIREV.
Leadership, 10 Oct 2014 [cached]
George Shirley
Crouse, 2 Nov 2007 [cached]
Returned to the Bay View Music Festival in July of 2003.
One of America's most versatile tenors and enlightened musicians, George Shirley is in demand nationally and internationally as performer, teacher and lecturer.
As performer, George Shirley has won international acclaim for his performances with the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera (Covent Garden, London) Deutsche Oper (Berlin), Teatro Colon (Buenos Aires), Netherlands Opera (Amsterdam), L'Opera (Monte Carlo), New York City Opera, Scottish Opera (Glasgow), Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Glyndebourne Festival, and Santa Fe Opera, among others.He was the first black tenor and second African-American male to sing leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, where he remained for eleven years as leading artist.He has sung with major symphony orchestra around the globe including the Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland, Royal Philharmonic (London), New York Philharmonic, BBC, San Francisco, ORF (Vienna), New Philharmonia (London), and the Detroit Symphony.Conductors with whom Mr. Shirley has collaborated include Sir Georg Solti, Otto Klemperer, Igor Starvinsky, Jascha Horenstein, Sixten Erling, Eugene Ormandy, Sir Adrian Bolt, Seiji Ozawa, Erich Leinsdorf, Bernard Haitink, Hans Swarovsky, Josep Krips, Leonard Bernstein, James DePreist, Fausto Cleva, Boris Goldovsky, Thomas Schippers, John Pritchard, Jorge Mester, Riccardo Muti, Dennis Russell Davies, Karl Bohm, Henry Lewis, Julius Rudel, Edo deWaart, John Nelson, Andrew Litton, and Herbert von Karajan.
The recording of Richard Struass' lat opera, Friedenstag, in which Mr. Shirley sings the role of Schutze, am may found on the KOCH INTERNATIONAL CLASSICS label, while his recording of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, conducted by Pierre Boulez, has been reissued in compact disc form by SONY.
Haydn's opera Orlando Paladino, with Mr. Shirley singing the title role under the baton of Antal Dorati, has now joined his recording of Mozart's Idomeno (with Sir Colin Davis) in the CD format on the PHILIPS label.
A recording in a somewhat new field for George Shirley was released on the CAPPICCIO label in the fall of 1996; it features the tenor as narrator of two poems by James Forsyth, Spirit of St. Louis and Ruth, set to the music of the late Franz Waxman.
On April 9, 1994, George Shirley was inducted into the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts Hall of Fame, along with Metropolitan Opera colleagues Tatiana Troyanos (post.), Charles Anthony, and Dominic Cossa.
Mr. Shirley sang the role of Herod Antipas in Richard Strauss' opera Salome with soprano Maria Ewing in the title role in the inaugural season of the Michigan Opera Theater's new Detroit Opera House in June, 1996.
In May 1999, George Shirley performed the narrations in Charles Ive's symphonic work Three Places in New England with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Adams.
As teacher, George Shirley was selected as one of the Distinguished Scholar-Teachers for the school year 1985-86 at the University of Maryland, College park, where he served as Professor of Voice from 1980 to 1987.In 1979 he was selected Andrew W. Mellon Humanist-In-Residence in the College of Liberal Arts at Howard University, and returned to that historic institution in 1986 as Visiting Professor in the Department of Music.The university of Iowa, Montclair State College (New Jersey), Howard University, Morgan State University, The University of the District of Columbia, Montgomery College (Maryland), the Baltimore School for the Arts, Hampton University (Virginia), the Cincinnati Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music (NYC), Rust College (Mississippi), Louisiana State University, the Aspen Music School, and the American Institute of Musical Studies (Graz, Austria) are a few of the institutions that over the years have awaited themselves of Professor Shirley's skills as Master Class Teacher, Artist-in-Residence, or Visiting Professor.George Shirley was invited to join the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he subsequently taught and performed for a period of ten years.Two weeks of the summer of 1992 were spent as guest faculty at the renowned Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California.At their July 1992 meeting, the University of Michigan Board of Regents named George Shirley The Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Professor of Music.Professor Shirley spent the Fall Semester of the school year 1995-6 as Visiting Scholar at the National Center for Voice and Speech at the University of Iowa, pursuing research in Voice Science with Dr. Ingo Titze, one of the world's leading researchers in that field.
In June 1999, George Shirley was appointed Director of the Vocals Arts Division of the University of Michigan School of Music.
Professor Shirley has on two occasions served as one of four Master Teachers for the National Association of Teachers of Singing Annual Intern Program for Young NATS Teachers, most recently at Ithaca College in New York in June, 2000.
As lecturer, Mr. Shirley has traveled across the nation presenting unique insights into traditional music, music written for the concert stage, the role of the musical performer, and especially the singular role of black composers and performers.Some of his presentations have included the lecture/demonstrations "The Music of Black Folk: From Africa to the New World" at Howard University; the lecture "The Black Singer" for the Wisconsin State Chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing; and the lecture/recital "The songs of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor" for the University of Michigan Society of Fellows.He has also participated on numerous scholarly panels and has judged major vocal competitions in the United States and Canada, including the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the initial University of Maryland international Marian Anderson Vocal Arts Competition.In late October of 1993, Professor Shirley served as Finals Judge of the prestigious Mobil Song Quest in Wellington, New Zealand.He then gave master classes at the Adam Concert Hall of the School of Music at Victoria University in Wellington, at Marama Hall on the campus of Otago University in Dunedin, and at the Music Theatre of the School of music at the University of Auckland.Since Marck 1994, he has served with a distinguished panel of judges for the SAVANNAH ONSTAGE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL'S American Traditions Competition, a unique singing contest that celebrates American music, i.e. jazz, blues, gospel, spirituals, musical theater, country and western, and American operas such as Porgy and Bess.
The City of Detroit and the State of Michigan have honored the Wayne State University graduate on numerous occasions.From his Alma Mater Professor Shirley has received both the Alumni Association and Arts Achievement Awards.In November 1996, he was honored with the Wayne State University Organization of Black Alumni Achievement Award.He was the first African-American to be appointed to a high school teaching position in music in Detroit, and later became the first black member of the United States Army Chorus in Washington, D.C.
Professor Shirley holds honorary degrees from Wilberforce University, Montclair State College, Lake Forest College, and the University of Northern Iowa.He as served as Senior Fellow in the University of Michigan Society of Fellows.He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.He is also a national Patron of Delta Omicron, a member of the American Academy of Teachers and Singing, and a former member of the Board of Directors of the University of Michigan Musical Society, the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Music Festival and School, and the Executive Board of the Horace H. Rackham Graduate School of the University of Michigan.In 1999 he was elected to the Boards of Directors of the National Opera Association and the Voice Foundation, and in 2000 he joined the Board of Directors of the Sullivan Foundation.
A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Mr. Shirley has been married to the visual artist Gladys Ishop Shirley for 49 years.
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