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This profile was last updated on 10/29/15  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Mr. George W. Shirley

Wrong George W. Shirley?

Professor Emeritus

Phone: (734) ***-****  
Email: g***@***.edu
Local Address:  Detroit , Michigan , United States
University of Michigan
1500 E. Medical Center Drive
Ann Arbor , Michigan 48109
United States

Company Description: About the University of Michigan: The University of Michigan, with its size, complexity, and academic strength, the breadth of its scholarly resources, and the...   more

Employment History

Board Memberships and Affiliations


  • honorary degrees
    Wilberforce University
  • honorary degrees
    Lake Forest College
  • honorary degrees
    Montclair State College
190 Total References
Web References
AFROCENTRIC VOICES: George Shirley Biography, 29 Oct 2015 [cached]
George Shirley AFROCENTRIC VOICES: George Shirley Biography
Photograph of George Shirley
George Shirley (b. 1934)
George Shirley receives National Arts Award from President Barack Obama
George Irving Shirley was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 18, 1934. At age 6, his family relocated to Detroit, Michigan, where he began music lessons. He was active as a vocalist at churches in the area and as a baritone horn player in a local band.
Shirley entered Wayne State University in Detroit as a music education major, receiving his bachelors degree in 1955. He was drafted into the military the following year and became the first African-American member of the United States Army Chorus. After his discharge in 1959, he continued studying voice with Therny Georgi, then he moved to New York where his professional career began.
He made his debut with a small opera troupe at Woodstock, New York, as Eisenstein in their production of Die Fledermaus. He then journeyed to Italy and made his European debut as Rodolfo in the Puccini opera, La Boheme. In 1961, he won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions by performing "Nessum dorma," beginning an eleven-year association with the house. While at the Met, he sang a 28 different roles from 26 operas, especially those of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Strauss and Wagner.
Shirley received a Grammy Award in 1968 for singing the role Ferrando in the RCA recording of Mozart's Così fan tutte.
From the 1960s to the present, Shirley has performed on the concert stage, singing recitals and oratorios. He has premiered several works during his career, on both the concert and operatic stages. In recent years, he again became involved with education. He taught at the University of Maryland from 1980 until he accepted a position at the University of Michigan in 1987. He currently serves there as Director of the Vocal Arts Division, Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Professor of Music.
In December, 2014, Shirley released a recording of Negro Spirituals entitled "George Shirley at 80: My Time Has Come! In 2015, he received the National Medal of Arts Award, which is presented to individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to the cultural life of the United States. Shirley stated, "I was stunned when informed by NEA Chairman Jane Chu that I had been selected to receive the National Medal of Arts Award.
George Shirley is a tenor whose voice has been known for its vibrancy and flexibility. His power and richness of sound easily filled a opera house or a concert hall.
1 "U-M's University Musical Society, George Shirley to receive National Medal of Arts" Michigan News, accessed September 11, 2015,
Recorded by George Shirley, August-September 1967. RCA Red Seal/Sony BMG Masterworks, 2006.
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National Association of Teachers of Singing - George Shirley to be honored with NATS Lifetime Achievement Award [cached]
George Shirley to be honored in Boston with NATS Lifetime Achievement Award National Association of Teachers of Singing - George Shirley to be honored with NATS Lifetime Achievement Award
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What's New > George Shirley to be honored with NATS Lifetime Achievement Award
George Shirley to be honored with NATS Lifetime Achievement Award posted on 12:12 PM, April 29, 2014
George Shirley, a longtime NATS member and one of America's most versatile tenors and enlightened musicians, will be honored during the 53rd NATS National Conference with the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award. Shirley has on a number of occasions served as one of four Master Teachers for the NATS Intern Program, most recently in June 2012 at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. He also remains in demand nationally and internationally as performer, teacher and lecturer. Shirley originally joined NATS in 1981.
One of America's most versatile tenors and enlightened musicians, George Shirley remains 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 Colòn, (Buenos Aires), Netherlands Opera (Amsterdam), L'Opéra (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. Throughout his 54-year career he has sung with major symphony orchestras 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 Stravinsky, Jascha Horenstein, Sixten Erling, Eugene Ormandy, Sir Adrian Boult, Seiji Ozawa, Erich Leinsdorf, Bernard Haitink, Hans Swarovsky, Josef Krips, Leonard Bernstein, James DePreist, Fausto Cleva, Boris Goldovsky, Thomas Schippers, John Pritchard, Jorge Mester, Sir Colin Davis, Riccardo Muti, Dennis Russell Davies, Karl Böhm, Henry Lewis, Julius Rudel, Edo deWaart, John Nelson, Andrew Litton, and Herbert von Karajan.
A recording in a somewhat new field for George Shirley was released on the CAPRICCIO 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; the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin is conducted by Lawrence Foster.
Each album consists of three CDs spanning 5 decades of opera and concert performances that capture, much of it in "real time," the diversity of repertoire that characterizes the profile of George Shirley's career.
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.
r. 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 Ives' symphonic work Three Places in New England with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Adams.
In October 2005 Mr. Shirley combined forces again with William Bolcom at the piano to perform an aria from the composer's opera A View from the Bridge at the dedication of the new Arthur Miller Theatre on the campus of The University of Michigan.
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, the American Institute of Musical Studies (Graz, Austria), and The Cape Town (South Africa) School of Music are a few of the institutions that over the years have availed themselves of Professor Shirley's skills as Master Class Teacher, Artist-in-Residence, or Visiting Professor. George Shirley was invited to join the distinguished faculty of the School of Music of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in September, 1987; three months later he was accorded the honor of conducting the opening Master Class at the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Convention in San Antonio, Texas. In 1988 Dr. 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 school year 1995-96 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 Vocal Arts Division of the University of Michigan School of Music.
Professor Shirley has on a number of occasions served as one of four Master Teachers for the National Association of Teachers of Singing Annual Intern Program for Young Teachers, most recently in June, 2012 at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins. In December, 2013 he spent a week teaching performance classes as guest of a high school associated with The China Conservatory in Beijing. He also coached repertoire for members of the faculty of the school.
As lecturer and adjudicator, Mr. Shirley has traveled across the nation presenting distinctive 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/demonstration "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; the lecture/recital "The Songs of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor" for The University of Michigan Society of Fellows; and, most recently, the lecture "The Molding of the Arts in America via the African American Experience: The Arduous Expedition from Sambo to Rodolfo, Tamino, and Otello" for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Michigan. 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 masterclasses 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 March, 1994, he has on numerous occasions adjudicated 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 & BESS. He has since 2000 served on the Board of Directors of the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation. In February 2007 he was invited to join the distinguished panel of judges for the George London Foundation Vocal Competition, and in August he served as a member of the international panel of judges at the Asian Youth Festival in Singapore.
The City of Detroit and
George ..., 28 May 2014 [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.
Ottley Music School - About Us, 4 Aug 2015 [cached]
GEORGE I. SHIRLEY, Tenor, Distinguished Professor of Music, Concert Artist , University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,MIREV.
AFROCENTRIC VOICES: Musician Biographies and Bibliographies, 29 Oct 2015 [cached]
George Shirley
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