U-M's George Shirley and University Musical Society receive National Medal of Arts

Sep 10, 2015

The University of Michigan's University Musical Society and George Shirley, emeritus professor at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, will each received a 2014 National Medal of Arts today.

They are among 11 winners this year - a list that included Sally Field, Stephen King, and Tobias Wolff. A ceremony was held this afternoon at the White House.

The medal is the highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government.

It’s 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."

More about today's awards from the University of Michigan:

UMS, which will be the first university-related arts presenter to receive this high honor, is renowned for its 137-year long commitment to arts presentation, education and creation.

Since 1879, UMS has served regional audiences by bringing the world's top dance, theater and musical performers to U-M's campus and the Southeast Michigan region …

Shirley, whose career spans an impressive 56 years, is an award-winning operatic tenor and educator who is considered a trailblazer for diversity in the performing arts field. After graduating from Wayne State University in 1955, he was drafted into the Army, where he became the first African-American member of the U.S. Army Chorus.

More than 300 medals have been awarded since 1985.

See the full list here.

*This post has been updated. The live event that was featured earlier has ended.