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, conductor, pianist, vocalist and overall stage presence. But as Lakeside’s new Senior V.P. of Programming, Shirtz now has the chance to showcase his experience and passion for education, faith and wellness.

In his position since September, Shirtz has been working to enhance various areas of programming in arts & entertainment, education, religion, and wellness & recreation.

In many ways, his background as an educator and college dean, and nearly two decades as an active producer, conductor and performer have prepared him for this position.

Influenced by his grandfather, former Big Band leader and producer Tommy Weldon, music and arts administration is clearly a family trait.

Shirtz has served on the music faculty and administration of Capital University Conservatory of Music, American Music Academy, Terra State Community College and Tri-C’s JazzFest and Performing Arts Series in Cleveland.

He has produced and conducted nationally with repertory theatre companies, festival choruses and jazz programming, working with such artists as Dave Brubeck, Maureen McGovern, Kevin Mahogany, Melissa Manchester, Elizabeth von Trapp and his own jazz groups.

An advocate for arts education, mental health awareness and the creative economy, Shirtz holds degrees from Capital University and California State University in Los Angeles.

“This position allows me to share further my passion as an artist and educator, but it’s more about giving people opportunities to explore new experiences in the arts and education, finding new ways to investigate faith, and discovering healing and personal strengths 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 Chautauqua 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. “And so, I’m very passionate about every aspect of programming at Lakeside.”

Shirtz speaks with enthusiasm about the Programming staff as they develop new programs focusing on teens and youth, ushering in a new era of the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra, enhancing the education and religious life offerings, enhancing recreation and wellness programs, and introducing new performing arts initiatives.

He believes that programming is about nurturing people’s interests, yet helping them explore, grow and think beyond through quality opportunities for all ages.

“I had visited Lakeside once nearly 20 years ago when I was performing with a group in Hoover Auditorium,” said Shirtz. “I thought it was a unique place, but didn’t become acquainted with it until I was invited to serve on the music staff.”

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

“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.”

Shirtz’s wife, Pamela, is also committed to the worlds of arts and education as a professional educator, choreographer, dancer, actress and singer. The couple believes that enhancing arts and culture creates a stronger community and enriches the quality of life.

While serving as a Senior V.P. at Lakeside, Shirtz continues his work as a performer and conductor, affiliation with the Jazz Education Network and producing his Jazz@8 Series.