Tuesday, February 21, 2012

George Shirley: 'My Responsibility to Music, and to Those Who Deserve to be Educated by it'

[George Shirley, Emeritus Professor of Voice, The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance]

John Malveaux of www.MusicUNTOLD.com sends a link to the Keynote Address presented by Professor George Shirley, Distinguished University Emeritus Professor of Voice at The University of Michigan, at the African American Art Song Alliance Conference at the University of California, Irvine February 9–12, 2012:

We present a brief excerpt from Prof. George Shirley's remarks:
African American Song Alliance
'My Responsibility to Music, and to Those Who Deserve to be Educated by it'
“Greetings, colleagues and friends, and an especial paeon of praise and gratitude to Dr. Darryl Taylor, who created the African American Song Alliance a decade-and-a-half ago in order to address the glaring lack of awareness of, and respect for, a body of creative work that has imbued the cultural heritage of our nation with its distinctive richness. I am honored to be invited to address this celebratory Conference, and I have selected a topic I feel to be of no little urgency for all of us who value music -- the art form we respect and love -- and who cherish the contribution of those esteemed composers and poets who have given birth to the vibrant treasury of art songs of African America. I wish to nurture this legacy with every passing year, and it is this desire that propels the thrust of my remarks today.

“When, in 1987, I accepted the invitation to return from the East Coast to the State of Michigan to teach at The University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, I was painfully aware of the fact that Music Education in America’s public schools was not as valued as it had been when I was a pupil in the system. I was not prepared, however, for just how bad things had become in Detroit where I grew up, and where I had enjoyed a stellar musical preparation from home, church, and school. My memories of music making are rich with vignettes from my earliest years of performing with my parents at church related functions as well as in public school music classes and presentations.

“These two powerful influences shaped the core of my life into a critical mass of musical endeavor, eventuating in teaching and professional performance. Such was the case, I am sure, for many of you, and for numerous of my fellow students whose names are now celebrated by music lovers around the world. But, more importantly, countless souls who have enjoyed the challenge and pleasure of expressing themselves through music in their formative years, and who have not become professional musicians, have benefited none the less from the mind-stimulating discipline and spirit-nurturing joy that musical study and performance provide.”

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