COLUMBIA — He’s played York, who was a slave to Lewis and Clark, and acted as an intern to politicians. But this time Neal E. Boyd is playing himself on NBC’s reality talent series, “America’s Got Talent.”
As an opera singer, the MU graduate earned glowing reviews from the judges of “America’s Got Talent” for his audition of Puccini’s great tenor aria “Nessun Dorma,” which aired June 17. The show features performers with an array of talents, one of whom will walk away with a prize of a million dollars. They are evaluated every week by a panel including David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan.
“Right now, you are the front-runner,” Hasselhoff said at the end of Boyd’s performance.
His audition, which can be viewed on YouTube.com, has earned him a spot at the Las Vegas callbacks. But as to whether he advanced to the semi-finals after that, he and those close to him are keeping mum. The Sikeston native is under contract not to talk about his experiences on the show and the pre-taped upcoming episodes, which will continue its third season Tuesday.
Although he cannot reveal whether he will advance, he has contacted former MU voice teacher Anne Harrell about taking lessons this summer, said Nancy Moen, communications director for MU’s College of Arts and Science, who still keeps in touch with Boyd.
Appearing on “America’s Got Talent” will not be Boyd’s first time in the spotlight. In 2003, he appeared in the original opera “Corps of Discovery,” in which he played the slave York in its world premiere in Columbia. He also sang at Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan’s funeral and for the past three sitting governors, earning him the nickname “The Voice of Missouri,” according to an interview with VOX magazine. In 2001, after winning the Music Teachers National Association Collegiate Artist Voice Competition, he earned the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall.
His short-lived career in politics included internships for the political campaigns of Paula Carter and John Ashcroft, through which he became friends with Carnahan, he said in an interview with VOX.
Boyd graduated from MU and Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and earned a degree in singing from New England Conservatory in Boston.
By day, Boyd works as an insurance salesman for Aflac, where he is often asked to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at meetings, Moen said.