Meet Michael Shirtz: Senior V.P. of Programming

Posted on December 06, 2018

Up until this point, Michael Shirtz has been best known to Lakesiders as a jazz musician – a talented piano player and a charming voice and stage presence. But as Lakeside’s new Senior V.P. of Programming, Shirtz now has the chance to show off his experience and passion for education, outreach, business and wellness.

In his new position, Shirtz will lead Lakeside in enhancing all areas of programming – religion, education, arts and recreation. He will work closely with Shirley Stary, V.P. of Arts Programming; Jeanne Mauriocourt, Director of Educational Programming; the Rev. Dr. Charlie Yoost, Director of Religious Life & Church Outreach; Jordan Murphy, Recreation Manager; and Casie Eller, Programming Manager.

“This position will allow me to continue my passions as an artist, but it’s more about giving people opportunities to be exposed to new arts, providing education for ages 1-100, finding new ways to investigate faith, and promoting healing through wellness and recreation.”

In his performances, Shirtz often shares about the trials he has faced – namely a car accident that prevented him from performing for 11 years, a stroke he suffered right before a performance, and his depression. But he credits his Lakeside experience for aiding in his healing.

“My faith has helped me through everything, but finding wellness both physically and mentally is very important to me,” he said. “I am very passionate about every aspect of programming at Lakeside.”

His preparation for this position can be traced back to his childhood, where he first picked up his love for music from his grandparents. His grandmother was a professional organist, and his grandfather was a jazz musician, conductor, composer and producer. He spent many years as a part of a big band, but he was also an administrator who enjoyed getting involved behind the scenes.

“I basically carbon copied his world into my world,” Shirtz said. “They were huge influences. I grew up with it; it became so important in my life. I’ve never seen myself as anything other than this.”

He spent his teenage years working with small house bands, big bands and jazz combos. He left his hometown of Marquette, Mich., and moved to Ohio where he would earn his bachelor’s degree in music and jazz studies from Capital University. After graduating, he stuck around to work for a jazz arts crew and eventually began teaching.

“One thing led to another, and after also attending California State University for my master’s degree, I ended up staying here in Ohio."

In his early career, he spent a lot of time on the faculty for both Capital University and Terra State Community College, where he started building a music and arts program. This led to him becoming the Dean of the School of Business Communication & Arts (now formally known as the Business, Humanities & Industrial Technologies Division). In addition to teaching music, he also taught in the business department.

After leaving Terra, he moved on to the Tri-C Jazzfest & Performing Arts program where he managed production, jazz education and community outreach. He has also managed Tri-C’s Performing Arts Series, developed and managed partnerships with Playhouse Square, DANCECleveland, the Maltz Performing Arts Center, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Tri-C Foundation and the Kulas Foundation.

“I had visited Lakeside once when I was performing with a group, and we came to Hoover Auditorium,” said Shirtz. “I thought it was a unique place, but I never really gave it much thought until I was invited to start performing more regularly in 2008.

Shirtz started writing music, performing and conducting for Lakeside in different capacities, and in 2013 he became the Religious Life Music Coordinator and the Director of the Chautauqua Choir.

“Over time, Lakeside just became a very important place for both my wife and me,” he said. “We would vacation here, and from a spiritual perspective, we began to feel a sense of renewal from all the different programs in the summer. As teachers, summer used to be our time off, but we ended up diving right into life at Lakeside.”

While serving as a Senior V.P. of Programming at Lakeside, Shirtz plans to continue his other professional endeavors. He will remain the Religious Life Music Coordinator and Director of the Chautauqua Choir, and he also remains affiliated with the Jazz Education Network, the Jazz @ 8 Series at the Sandusky State Theater, and will continue teaching and holding workshops.