George Shirley is one of America's most versatile tenors. He is in demand nationally and internationally as performer, teacher, lecturer, and adjudicator.
As a performer he has won international acclaim for his performances with the Metropolitan Opera (where he was the first African American tenor and second African American male to sing leading roles), The 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, Washington Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, Glyndebourne Festival, and Santa Fe Opera, among others. Mr. Shirley has recorded for RCA, COLUMBIA, DECCA, ANGEL, PHILIPS, VANGUARD, CRI, and ALBANY. He received a GRAMMY AWARD in 1968 for his role (FERRANDO) in the prize-winning RCA recording of Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTE, which was re-issued on compact disc. BATTLE PIECES, a cycle of songs composed by Warren M. Swenson to the Civil War poetry of Herman Melville, was released by Albany Records in 2003 with Pulitzer Prize winning composer William Bolcom accompanying George Shirley at the piano.
Mr. Shirley has performed more than 80 operatic roles over the span of his 52-year career, as well as oratorio, recital, and concert literature with some of the world’s most renowned conductors and accompanists (Solti, Klemperer, Stravinsky, Ormandy, von Karajan, Krips, Leinsdorf, Colin Davis, Bernstein, Ozawa, Maazel, Isepp, Katz, Wadsworth, Wustman, et al.).
Among numerous awards and citations, the most recent he has received are the Dr. Charles H. Wright Legacy Award for Excellence in Fine Arts from the Charles H. Wright African American Museum in Detroit, The University of Michigan School of Music Alumni Citation of Merit, The Trail Blazer Award from the National Association for the Study and Performance of African American Music, and The Career Achievement Award in the Field of Music from the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Mr. Shirley, the first African American assigned to a high school teaching position in music in the Detroit Public Schools, accepted an appointment to the faculty of the University of Michigan School of Music in 1987 following seven years of teaching and service as Professor of Voice at The University of Maryland College Park. At their July, 1992 meeting, the University of Michigan Board of Regents named George Shirley The Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Professor of Music. In June 1999, Professor Shirley accepted appointment as Director of the Vocal Arts Division of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. In May 2007, the Board of Regents bestowed emeritus status on Professor Shirley upon his retirement following 20 years of service to the university and to the school.