As one of the first African American operatic performers, renowned tenor and trailblazer George Shirley’s contributions to the world of opera and his enduring commitment to music education have left an indelible mark on the industry. Notably, he was the first African American tenor and the second African American male to sing leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, where he graced the stage for an impressive eleven years.
His achievements extended beyond the spotlight as the first Black member of the United States Army Chorus in Washington, D.C. and the first African American to hold a high school music teaching post in Detroit. Shirley has a music education career spanning nearly five decades, and he is a Grammy Award-winning artist who has been passionate about the profound value of music education and the pivotal role it plays in nurturing future talent.
In a candid and insightful discussion, Shirley sat down for an exclusive one-on-one conversation with 90.9 WRCJ contributor Cecelia Sharpe about his remarkable entry into the opera scene and his history as a music educator. He also talks about his dedication to championing classical works by Black composers and emphasizing the importance of recognizing and preserving this rich musical heritage.
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Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.