Music for Blunt activities coming from area

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Southeast Missouri musicians will be well-represented at the inaugural activities taking place in Jefferson City on Saturday and Monday.

Cape Girardeau's Jerry Ford Orchestra has been chosen as the band for the inaugural ball on Saturday, while Sikeston native and Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Neal Boyd will sing the national anthem at the inauguration on Monday.

This isn't the first time the 14-piece orchestra has played such an event. In 2002, they were the band at the inaugural ball for the Missouri Legislature.

"They did an outstanding job playing at the legislative inaugural ball two years ago," said Spence Jackson, spokesman for governor-elect Matt Blunt. "Everyone really seemed to enjoy their performance, so when we heard they were available, we had to extend the invitation to play at this year's ball."

Ford's group made an immediate impression at the event two years ago, playing an extra hour at the request of patrons.

Ford also has personal ties to the Blunt family, sharing a close relationship with the governor-elect's grandfather, Leroy. Both he and Ford were elected to the Missouri Legislature in 1978.

"They're really top-flight people, so it's a privilege and an honor for us to do this for them," Ford said.

Since that time Ford has kept up his connections in Jefferson City, working as a lobbyist for several years in the legislature and playing for legislative receptions in the capital.

The ball will last from 8 p.m. to midnight in the Capitol building, starting with the grand march and the traditional "Missouri Waltz" immediately following.

The orchestra will play a variety of styles throughout the night to keep dignitaries entertained, including big-band, ballroom (such as Latin tunes, ballads and swing) and rock 'n' roll.

The official swearing-in ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Monday and will begin with Boyd's rendition of the national anthem.

"It's an incredible honor," Boyd said. "Even just to get the opportunity to sing at any state event is something that I feel completely overwhelmed about."

Performed in 2000

Like Ford, Boyd is no stranger to politics or Jefferson City. He minored in political science in college and worked as a legislative aide to the late state Sen. Paula Carter.

"A lot of my affiliations and ties are with a lot of conservative lawmakers in the state," Boyd said.

Nor is he unaccustomed to singing at state government events. He has performed during the opening of the Missouri legislative session and sang a solo at the memorial service for Gov. Mel Carnahan after his death in a plane crash in 2000.

"I have an idea of the scope of the event," Boyd said. "It's really a great feeling to know that this will be more upbeat than that one. It definitely won't be the largest audience I've ever sung for, but it will be nice to sing for a leader I respect and have great admiration for."

Boyd has also performed twice at Carnegie Hall and was the winner of the National Collegiate Artist Voice Competition in 2000, which he calls the highlight of his career so far.

335-6611, extension 182

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