Bio:: Shirley Irek was born in Croatia. She was a scholarship student at the Juilliard School, where she received her Bachelors’ and Master’s Degrees in performance. There she studied with Irwin Freundlich, Martin Canin and Samuel Sanders. Her interest is in chamber music and accompanying and she has firmly established a reputation as a leading collaborative pianist.
Ms. Irek was a member of a two-piano team for over 15 years. During that time she toured Japan, Africa, France, Portugal and the U.S. Highlighting these engagements were the performances of a two-piano concerto by Michael Colgrass with the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin. Other orchestral appearances include the North Carolina Symphony, the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Provence in Cannes, France.
As a member of the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble, Ms. Irek performed two critically acclaimed recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall, sponsored by the Carnegie Hall Corporation. The BCE has toured Europe and the U.S. in recital and they have recorded two CD’s for MMC Records. They continue to perform each summer at An Appalachian Summer Festival in Boone, N.C. Shirley has performed recitals with many outstanding artists including James Kreger, Frank Almond, Paul Kantor, Katherine Ciesinski and the
American String Quartet. She is also a teacher/performer every summer at the Idyllwild Arts Music Festival in Idyllwild, California where students come from all over the world to be coached in chamber music.
As a soloist, Shirley made her formal debut at the age of seven. She performed the Mozart Concerto K.488 with the Toronto Chamber Orchestra under Jacob Groob. During her teen years she was often a soloist with the CalArts Symphony. Shirley was also soloist with the Redlands Bowl Orchestra and the California Chamber Orchestra under Henri Tamianka. While a student at Juilliard she won the Concerto Prize and performed with the Juilliard Orchestra under Sixten Ehrling in Lincoln Center. She was the first recipient of the Van Cliburn Award in memory of Rosina Lhevinne, a prize awarded once each year for outstanding achievement in piano.
In Atlanta, she has often performed as a soloist with the Atlanta Ballet, performing works by Rachmaninoff, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Martinu. Shirley is a highly respected accompanist and enjoys working with young people. She accompanies regularly for the Talent Search Arts Competition in Miami, Florida and for the Blount Competition, sponsored by the Montgomery Symphony in Alabama.
Ms. Irek has taught piano for over 20 years. She served as Professor of Piano at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (1990-1994) where she was also Chair of the Keyboard Department, and as Visiting Professor of Piano at the State University of New York in Buffalo (1994-1996). She has lived in Atlanta since 1996 where she maintains a private studio, and is the proud mother of Vanessa and Alexander.
ArtCAN is a unique and original fund raising event that features a fine art auction and original performances from selected acclaimed performing and visual artists from around the world who have been closely affected by cancer.