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Arts & Life
On this page you'll find all of our stories on the city of Detroit.Suggest a story here and follow our podcast here.

A conversation with U-M's George Shirley, winner of the National Medal of Arts

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George Shirley, emeritus professor at the University of Michigan School of Music, Dance and Theatre, recently received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.

Shirley graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor's degree in music. He went on to break new ground for diversity in the performing arts as an operatic tenor and a music educator.

The litany of "firsts" that he has achieved is remarkable:

  • First African-American to sing in the U.S. Army Chorus
  • First African-American tenor to perform a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera
  • First African-American hired to teach music at Detroit high schools

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Credit Courtesy George Shirley
George Shirley as Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni, Metropolitan Opera.

In this interview with Stateside, Shirley talks about his life, classical music, and the importance of music education in schools.

Professor Shirley was one of 11 winners of the National Medal of Arts, along with the University Musical Society. 

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