At 87, opera trailblazer George Shirley is still mentoring students, performing

George Shirley, a Wayne State University graduate who would go on to become the first black tenor at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, traveled through the night to audition for the US Army Chorus nearly 70 years ago and had no guarantee he would be recorded would.

Shirley, who served in the army in the 1950s, could still sing though. The choir had no black members. It never was.

After arriving in Washington DC with two friends from Wayne State, Shirley recalls waiting after his audition. And wait. Thirty minutes later he got the news: he had been accepted, making him the first black man to be accepted into the choir. He had to wait so long because the choir director had to call the Pentagon to get the OK to record him.

Leave a Comment