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May 15, 2008 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Few people achieve in their lifetimes what Neal E. Boyd had by age 25, when he was profiled in the May 10, 2001, issue of Vox. After standing on the stage at Carnegie Hall belting out “Ingemisco” in his finest tenor voice, daily life seemed at first a bit of a letdown for the singer.
Boyd remembers one day with his mother in the kitchen of his childhood home in Sikeston, Mo.
“I said, ‘Mom, I think I peaked at 25.’
“... she says, ‘No, I don’t think that’s happened yet.’
“It can’t ever get any better than this,’” Boyd answered.
“‘It will one day,’ she said.”
Since then, life for Boyd has hardly skipped a beat. Boyd had planned to go to Yale to pursue singing, but his plans changed when his professor, Mark St. Laurent, moved to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
“He was super-cool,” Boyd says. “I wanted to be with him.”
Boyd followed his teacher to Boston in 2002, where he obtained an artist’s degree in singing. “At that time, everything meshes, winds up blurring,” Boyd says.
He remembers coming back to MU to perform as a slave named York in the world premiere of Corps of Discovery, an opera based on Lewis and Clark that was written for the bicentennial.
There he met his girlfriend, Heather Tomko, with whom he celebrated his five-year anniversary this April. She was a student chorus member in Corps of Discovery.
Boyd later performed at Washington, D.C.,’s John F. Kennedy Center as well as several venues in Europe. The tenor soloist also sang in operas such as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Requiem with the Illinois Symphony and student performances of Verdi’s La Traviatta and Rigoletto at MU and Southeast Missouri State University.
When Gov. Mel Carnahan died, Boyd began his solo career by singing at Carnahan’s funeral. Although sobering for Boyd, who had been close to Carnahan, the job opened many doors.
Boyd has since performed for the past three sitting governors in Missouri. In fact, Boyd has performed at so many political and state events that during a fundraiser for Jim Talent’s campaign, the keynote speaker introduced Boyd as “The Voice of Missouri.”
President George W. Bush, who was in attendance, chimed in: “Mr. Boyd, you are the Voice of Missouri indeed.”
And he has been ever since. But Boyd sang before hundreds of others before he took the stage in front of political pundits and opera aficionados.
In college, Boyd was involved in a variety of ventures: He earned a music degree at MU and a speech degree at Southeast Missouri State University.
Still, Boyd didn’t stop there. He delivered pizzas, singing opera music along the way, and interned for the politcal campaigns of Paula Carter and John Ashcroft. It was there he became friends with prominent politicians such as Ashcroft and Carnahan.
Today, Boyd’s tendency to stay busy remains as strong as ever. In addition to juggling solo and opera performances, he also has a day job as district sales coordinator for Aflac.
“I’ve always had a day job,” says Boyd, “whether (or not) I was delivering pizzas.”
Boyd says that he’s always had diverse interests and didn’t want to put all his energy into singing.
“I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket and decide I was going to be a superstar performer,” he says.
He also has taken an active role in politics.
“Two weeks ago I was confirmed to my second state commission for the Missouri Workforce Investment Board,” Boyd says. Members of the board advise the governor on how to act in the best interests of Missouri’s workforce. The commission brought approval from his longtime friend, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan.
“I got my proclamation in the mail from Robin Carnahan, who now is the secretary of state,” Boyd says. “(There was) a little note that said, ‘It’s good to see you so active.’”
Whichever way you look at it, things have not slowed down for Neal E. Boyd — and he would prefer that you say it with the middle initial.
“When I was a kid, my seventh grade teacher told me that people who wanted to be great always used a middle initial,” Boyd says. Boyd spelled out his name and looked at it: “Neal Boyd. Neal E. Boyd. Neal E. Boyd ... Awesome!” he said to himself. He’s used it ever since.
Boyd is often asked what the “E” stands for, but he’s not telling. When asked, Boyd answers, “energetic,” “extremely awesome,” “exactly.”
Finally, he settles on one response, “The ‘E’ remains a mystery.”
However, it’s no mystery that Boyd, with his middle initial firmly in place, will be singing as the Voice of Missouri for years to come.