Friday, September 4, 2015

Sphinx's Inaugural Guest Artist George Shirley honored with National Medal of Arts

George Shirley

Legendary African-American tenor George Shirley is honored as one of the recipients of the Presidential Medals of Arts.  The National Medal of Arts is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government. The National Medal of Arts is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals or groups who "are deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States."

Professor Shirley was the very first guest soloist to appear during the inaugural Sphinx Competition Finals Concert in 1998, performing with the Ann Arbor Symphony. Other guest artists to appear during the Sphinx Finals Concerts have included Branford Marsalis, Simon Shaheen, Take 6, and others.  He was also a special Guest Artist to perform during the inaugural Sphinx Medals of Excellence celebration in our nation's capital, celebrating the highest honor bestowed by Sphinx upon extraordinary emerging artists.
President & Artistic Director of Sphinx, Afa S. Dworkin, shared: "We are so thrilled to celebrate Professor Shirley's legacy and this distinguished honor: it was a privilege to perform with him as a member of the Ann Arbor Symphony during inaugural Sphinx Competition.  His commitment to artistic excellence and service to our community stand as a compelling example for generations of our young artists!"

Shirley was the first African-American to be appointed to a high school teaching post in music in Detroit, the first African-American member of the United States Army Chorus in Washington, D.C., and the first African-American tenor and second African-American male to sing leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, where he remained for 11 years.
He taught for 20 years at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, retiring in 2007 as Emeritus Professor. In 1992 he was named Joseph Edgar Maddy Distinguished University Professor of Music and in 1999 accepted appointment as Director of the Vocal Arts Division at SMTD.

As a performer, Shirley won international acclaim for his performances in the world's great opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera (New York), Royal Opera (Covent Garden, London), Deutsche Oper (Berlin), Téatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Netherlands Opera (Amsterdam), L'Opéra de Monte Carlo, New York City Opera, Scottish Opera (Glasgow), Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera (Kennedy Center), Michigan Opera Theater, Glyndebourne Festival, and Santa Fe Opera. He has recorded for RCA, Columbia, Decca, Angel, Vanguard, CRI, and Philips and received a Grammy Award in 1968 for his role (Ferrando) in the RCA recording of Mozart's Così fan tutte.

By Othalie G (@OthalieGraham)

Comment by email:

Thank you Bill and most hearty congratulations on a truly well-deserved honor, Professor Shirley!  afa  Afa S. Dworkin

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