'America's Got Talent' winner Neal Boyd to appear at Southeast Homecoming

Thursday, October 23, 2008
In this image released by NBC, opera singer Neal E. Boyd, an insurance salesman from Sikeston, Mo., performs Oct. 1 after winning the NBC talent competition "America's Got Talent" in Studio City, Calif. (AP Photo/NBC, Chris Haston)

"America's Got Talent" winner Neal E. Boyd will ride in the Southeast Missouri State University Homecoming parade Saturday and accept a Distinguished Service Award from the university, but he won't whip out his million-dollar voice for the public because of restrictions on his public performances.

University officials had previously thought the Sikeston, Mo., native wouldn't be able to attend Homecoming activities due to a hectic schedule. Boyd, a tenor who received a $1 million prize for winning NBC's "America's Got Talent" earlier this month, told the Southeast Missourian in an interview shortly after his win that his schedule may keep him from coming back to the area for some time.

"My schedule, and the new people in my life, the handlers, are really, are taking advantage of the moment, and it's important that they do, or it could all go away real quick, as quick as it came," Boyd said.

But university officials were recently notified that Boyd would indeed be able to attend the events Saturday, according to a news release sent out Wednesday.

The Saturday appearance almost didn't happen due to a meeting with executives from his record label, Boyd said Wednesday from his St. Louis home. But the label decided to accommodate Boyd, giving him a week away from his new celebrity entertainer life so he could spend some time at home and come back to Southeast Missouri for the first time since his win Oct. 1, Boyd said.

"This weekend I get to ... touch base again," Boyd said of coming home for the first time "since everything changed. I get to see Mom, I get to see my brother and his kids. The main thing really was specifically to get back for SEMO's Homecoming."

Boyd said going to Homecoming will give him a chance to thank those who helped him start his singing career and who supported him during his "America's Got Talent" run.

A public appearance in Sikeston may also be possible Sunday if people in his hometown can organize an appearance on short notice, Boyd said.

However, contractual obligations prevent him from performing in public, Boyd said.

Boyd headlined a show Friday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, performing in front of 5,000 people, and his time has been dominated by managers and record companies, he said. At every turn he's flocked by people who recognize him, Boyd said, but he expects people in Southeast Missouri will be gracious and respect his space while still showing him their appreciation.

Boyd earned his bachelor's degree in speech communication from Southeast in 2001. At the same time he was taking classes at the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he had transferred in 2000 to receive more vocal training. While taking classes at both schools, Boyd won the 2000 National Collegiate Artist Voice Competition of the Music Teachers National Association.

The university started the Distinguished Service Award in 2002. An internal committee selects recipients based on nominations.

Recipients are people who have "brought distinction to the university. They really stand out and put Southeast in the spotlight," said Shad Burner, director of alumni services.

Other recipients this year are Three Rivers Community College basketball coach Gene Bess of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and educator Dr. Jerry Waddle of Cape Girardeau.

The last television star to be recognized by the university was Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles, who received the Alumni Merit Award last year.

Burner said Boyd has been an "advocate" for Southeast.

"He has degrees from other institutions as well, but he has worked hard to come back to Southeast. I think he thinks of us as home. That he's putting so much effort to make it back really means a lot to us," Burner said.

The Distinguished Service Award will be given at an All-Alumni Breakfast at 7:30 a.m. at the Wehking Alumni Center, 926 Broadway. Tickets for the breakfast are $10, and a limited number are available by calling 651-2259.

The parade begins at 9:30 a.m. at Capaha Park.

msanders@semissourian.com

388-3652

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