Boyd makes name for himself in song

Wednesday, June 5, 2002
Neal Boyd stands at the First United Methodist Church's Dempster Hall pulpit where he will present a special performance at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 3 (Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)

SIKESTON -- It's hard to believe that Sikeston native Neal E. Boyd almost gave up singing for a career in politics. But the 26-year-old lyric tenor who has performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City twice and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., has gotten his singing career back on track and has definitely made a name for himself.

Boyd will head to the Northeast in August to attend the New England Conservatory School of Music in Boston, Mass. But before he leaves, Boyd is taking several opportunities to thank the community for supporting his singing career though the years.

"I'm blessed," Boyd said. "There's no doubt about it. I love the way my music transcends to the audience and has an emotional impact on them."

As a child, Boyd said he listened to a lot of Motown music, especially by the Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye and Lionel Richie. After much persuasion from the middle school choir teacher, who had heard Boyd sing in the hall, Boyd agreed to join the choir. It was this decision that began Boyd's singing career.

After winning all-district and all-state choir honors in high school, Boyd continued his singing in college at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. Boyd said college provided him with a whole new level of singing. Three months after beginning college, Boyd recalled he was paired up with a senior female vocalist in an opera scene during an end-of-the-semester concert, where they wowed the audience.

Over the next couple of years, Boyd sang a huge range of music which included operatic arias in Latin, German and French. It became obvious that this was something ingrained in him, but in his third year of college, Boyd was burnt out and began to doubt his music career.

"It was a great dream to have, but it just seemed so unattainable," Boyd said. "Here I am this kid from a little Bootheel town trying to make a career out of singing when all of my other friends are majoring in public relations and law. I just decided to quit."

Boyd spent the next six months as a political science intern at the Capitol in Jefferson City. It was during his time as an intern, literally, when Boyd decided to give music another try.

"I was in the middle of writing a speech when I heard a high school choir giving a concert to all the legislators," he explained. "I was typing and listening to them sing when all of a sudden, I was crying -- almost balling like a baby. I said to myself, 'What am I doing? I have this great gift, but I'm wasting it.'"

Although Boyd was successful in Jefferson City, he opted to leave Southeast, and in January 1999 transferred to the University of Missouri-Columbia. Boyd admits he had no idea what was in store for him.

Soon after his arrival in Columbia, Boyd began preparing for state competition. He won at the state level, then the division level. In March 2000, he competed at the national level. Boyd was up against singers from the Juilliard School in New York City and University of California, Los Angeles.

"I didn't want to lose," he recalled. "I went in there and sang with all my heart." Boyd won the national title, which opened many doors for him.

In March 2001, he sang for the first time at Carnegie Hall. Boyd called the experience surreal and knew that whatever he was doing, he should keep doing it.

Boyd received degrees in May 2001 from Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. After graduation, he took a year off and taught middle and high school music classes for Sikeston R-6 during the 2001-2002 school year.

Boyd was invited back to Carnegie Hall this March and also performed at the Kennedy Center during this trip. Boyd has toured in Italy and sang at the late Gov. Mel Carnahan's funeral. Currently, he is involved in a three-act opera that will debut in May 2003 at the University of Missouri-Columbia and will tour across the nation.

"I know for a fact that nobody -- nobody -- from Sikeston has ever sang at Carnegie Hall. And he's done it twice," friend and manager Dan Norton said.

Boyd credits his family and good friends for his success. Boyd will sing at the 9 a.m. services June 9 and 23 and July 7 and 21 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Sikeston. Boyd is also singing in a concert at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 3 at the First United Methodist Church in Sikeston.

Tickets will go on sale in two weeks. Tickets purchased for $100 will be listed as concert sponsors and those who purchase them can attend a reception hosted by Ray Clinton. Tickets for non-sponsors cost $15 each.

Although Boyd is receiving a scholarship from the New England Conservatory, Norton said the young singer could still use some financial help from the community. That's why all the money earned from the concert will be donated to Boyd.

"Neal is just so remarkable. He is an outstanding talent. They (New England Conservatory) know that this guy is gonna fly. It seems like the least we can do is help him with his living expenses, like room and board and food," Norton said.

Norton met Boyd years ago, when Boyd was Sikeston High School's sophomore class president. Norton was a board member, and Boyd job-shadowed Norton on Student Government Day. Ever since then, Norton said he has had so much respect for the young man.

"He's such an absolutely delightful boy," Norton said. "I just want to see great things happen for him."

Those interested in purchasing tickets for Boyd's concert should call 573-471-2680 or send their ticket order and money to: Neal Boyd Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 428, Sikeston, Mo. 63801.

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