Sikeston native set to compete on talent show

Tuesday, June 3, 2008
DON FRAZIER * dfrazier@semissourian.com Neal Boyd posed in front of Southeast Missouri State University's Academic Hall, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2005.

SIKESTON — Fans of the NBC show "America's Got Talent" will see a familiar face when the show's third season premieres later this month.

Sikeston native Neal Boyd — also dubbed "The Voice of Missouri" — will be a contestant, showing off his singing talents.

"I think it's super," said Randy York of Sikeston, one of Boyd's friends. "He has a lot of talent ... I'm just amazed that somebody can have the talent he has."

That's a sentiment echoed by several people who know Boyd and will be cheering him on.

"America's Got Talent" is a talent search open to acts of all ages. Produced by Simon Cowell, hopeful stars perform each week in front of a panel of celebrity judges. Viewers vote for their favorites each week, and one act walks away with a $1 million prize.

Due to his contract with NBC, Boyd, who now lives in the St. Louis area, can't comment on the show or his involvement. In fact, word about his being one of the contestants only came about when he was featured on a commercial promoting the show.

When Lynn Feeler of Sikeston first saw the clip, she said she was "thrilled for him and for Sikeston."

Boyd, his mother, Esther, and other family members attend St. Paul's Episcopal Church, to which Feeler also belongs. Feeler watched Boyd grow up in the church, as well as in school, because she has two daughters about the same age as him.

"It's been evident from early on that he was and is a magnificent tenor," she said. "Many in the community have said of the likes of [Luciano] Pavarotti."

Boyd, a 1994 graduate of Sikeston High School, studied speech communications and music at Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia. He graduated from both in May 2001.

He then took a year off to teach, and in 2002, went to study at the New England Conservatory in Boston, where he obtained an artist's degree in singing.

During his singing career, Boyd has performed for many political and state events. He's also performed at Carnegie Hall.

Jeffrey Connor, communications director for U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, said she is "a huge fan" of Boyd. Emerson was out of the country Friday and unable to speak, but Connor said Boyd has performed at several events the representative has attended.

Friends of Boyd say he's worked hard to get to where he is. They also say it's an honor for Sikeston — and a reflection of the community and its educational system.

"Every time you've got talent like that in a community, it shows your city can nurture," Norton said.

The show premieres at 8 p.m. June 17 on NBC. For more information on the show, go to www.nbc.com/Americas_Got_Talent/. For more information on Boyd and clips of his music, go to www.nealeboyd.com.

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