Tenor George Shirley Awarded National Medal of Arts

Tenor George Shirley, a renowned opera singer and educator with Eugene connections, received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony on September 10, 2015.

A distinguished professor of vocal arts, Shirley directed the doctoral studies of Mark Beudert, Eugene Opera’s General Director, at the University of Michigan.

Shirley, 81, has won many professional honors over a long career. He was the first African-American tenor to appear in a leading role at the Metropolitan Opera. Eugene opera fans remember him as Father Grenville in our March 2013 production of Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking.

At the White House award ceremony, Shirley shared the platform with several other prominent honorees, including author Stephen King and actor Sally Field.