Neal E. Boyd

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Neal E. Boyd
Boyd signing an autograph after performing at St. John Lutheran Church-Ellisville, Missouri, U.S.
Boyd signing an autograph after performing at St. John Lutheran Church-Ellisville, Missouri, U.S.
Background information
Born(1975-11-18)November 18, 1975
Sikeston, Missouri
DiedJune 10, 2018(2018-06-10) (aged 42)
Sikeston, Missouri
GenresOperatic pop, Classical crossover
Years active2008–2018
LabelsDecca (2009–2018)

Neal Evans Boyd (November 18, 1975 – June 10, 2018) was an American classical singer. He was best known as being the winner of the third season of America's Got Talent.

Early life[edit]

Boyd was born in Sikeston, Missouri in 1975 and grew up there. His father is of African American descent, and his mother is European. Boyd and his brother were raised solely by their mother, and, subsequently, endured poverty conditions.[1] He discovered operatic music in junior high school when his older brother was doing a school project involving classical music and brought home a CD of the Three Tenors. Boyd was so enthralled by the passion and skill of the famous trio that he started learning to sing in Luciano Pavarotti's and Plácido Domingo's operatic styles. Boyd graduated from Sikeston High School in May 1994, where he was senior class president.[2][3]

He earned a bachelor's degree in speech communications from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (May 2001), a bachelor's degree in music from the University of Missouri School of Music in Columbia, Missouri (May 2001),[3] continued his studies at the New England Conservatory of Music and later earned a master's degree in management from the online University of Phoenix.[4][5] Boyd was president of the Student Senate at Southeast Missouri State University,[6] where he was also a member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.[7] While in college, Boyd interned at the state capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri.[8]

He was the winner of the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) Vocal Collegiate Championship in 2000 while in the voice studio of Professor Ann Harrell of University of Missouri. This national win led to his solo debut at New York City's Carnegie Hall in March 2001.[citation needed]

After teaching music for the 2001–2002 school year in his hometown of Sikeston, Missouri, in 2002, he attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston to study opera.[3][9] This led to a role as the slave "York" in Michael Ching's World Premier Opera "Corps of Discovery, A Musical Journey," commissioned by University of Missouri.[citation needed]

America's Got Talent[edit]

While working as an insurance salesman in the spring of 2008, Boyd drove to Chicago, without telling his mother or best friend, and stood in line with 20,000 people auditioning for America's Got Talent. He performed Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind,” then followed it up with Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer.” Boyd recalled the result of traveling by plane to L.A. four days later to show the judges that he had talent..[10]

In June 2008, more than 200,000 people auditioned for the show that year. Auditions took place within five major cities - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Atlanta. Of the participants who auditioned for this season, 40 secured a place in the live quarter-finals, with ten in each. 20 of these acts advanced into the semi-finals, with around 10 semi-finalists securing a place in the finals, and 5 becoming grand-finalists.

Boyd began appearing in national commercials weeks before the season started in June, and 12.8 million people turned in to see him featured in an emotional 10-minute segment that closed the season premiere.

Host Jerry Springer talked to Boyd backstage at L.A.'s Orpheum Theatre, while creator Simon Cowell stood in the wings. Judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan, and David Hasselhoff welcomed Boyd on stage and asked questions, asking him what it would mean to win the show and Boyd said that it would mean everything to him. Boyd performed "Nessun dorma" and the crowd stood and cheered midway through the performance. After he finished and was holding back tears, the crowd was still cheering and Springer yelled, "In the two season after doing this show, I haven't heard better, I have not heard better." The crowd chanted, "Vegas, Vegas, Vegas." Hasselhoff began the judges remarks by saying, "You know what, this show is about finding talent, and it's about a million dollars, and right now you are the front runner." He continued, "And you know what, go ahead and be emotional. It's great to be emotional, because your dreams are coming true right now. That was fabulous! And you are fabulous, and I swear, your mother has got to be proud of you tonight. Fantastic!" Sharon asked, "I'm very interested, could you tell me, what do you do for a living?" When Boyd said, "I sell insurance," Sharon responded, "Really, I'd buy some from you." She continued, "Seriously that was spectacular and you warmed my heart. I adore that song and you sang it so beautifully. Thank you so much." Morgan commented, "You know, Neal, as you began to sing, the whole audience felt electricity on the stage. It was the passion, the emotion, the performance was incredible. You know, you are a very, very special talent." The judges advanced him to Las Vegas to cheers from the audience and his tears.

The third season consisted of 20 episodes from June 17 to October 1. During its broadcast, the season averaged over 10 million viewers.

During his time in Los Angeles, Boyd lived in the Sheraton Universal Hotel. He went to work each day at CBS Studio Center or "CBS Radford," located in the Studio City district of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. The show used one of the 18 sound stages at CBS Radford, Stage 21, for the third season.

Neal competed or was announced as advancing in 10 episodes. He gave fans reasons to be nervous and cheer again and again, after he made it through in his audition, advanced to Las Vegas, and moved to the Top 40, Top 20, and Top 10.

On October 1, 2008, five contestants remained, Boyd, piano player Eli Mattson, violin duo Nuttin But Stringz, classical music vocalist Donald Braswell and soul singer Queen Emily. The audience was filled with friends and family of Boyd (some of whom were watching at home) and the other finalists (Top 5 and Top 10), and 12.5 million people were watching the live broadcast. Jerry Springer announced the winner saying "The winner of $1-million... the headline show in Las Vegas... and the title for "Best New Act in America" is..." and after a 20 second pause, Boyd's name was announced. As the crowd erupted, Boyd cried tears of absolute joy while Eli Mattson, his runner up, congratulated him with a hug before he walked offstage. With Springer holding the mic, Boyd looked out into the crowd and called out "I love you, Mom! I know you're at home watching. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH! I love you, Sikeston! I love you, Missouri!" His hero hero Plácido Domingo then congratulated Boyd via video, saying that "By taking part in America's Got Talent, you have brought to America's ears Opera. So be proud of it. And I'm sure from today at, you are starting starting a brilliant career. All my best. Congratulations. All the best, Neal." With confetti still showering, Boyd performed "Nessun Dorma" one more time before he was congratulated with hugs from both the judges and all the contestants before the season ended.

Performances and results[edit]

Week Theme Song choice Original artist/composer Performance order Result
Audition Inspiration "Nessun dorma" Puccini Final (Episode 1) Advanced
Vegas Verdicts Classical Singers "Unchained Melody" Todd Duncan Advanced
Top 40 Group 1 "Somewhere" Leonard Bernstein 10 Advanced
Top 20 Group 1
"Mama" Il Divo 7 Advanced
Top 10 Inspirations "All by Myself" Eric Carmen 8 Advanced
Top 5 Finals "Nessun Dorma" Puccini 3 Winner


Neal E. Boyd Performing

Boyd was awarded the $1-million prize and a headline show at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas hosted by Jerry Springer.[citation needed]

On October 2008, his hometown declared the month of October "Neal E. Boyd Month."[11] Two months later, he was a special guest performer on NBC's holiday special “Christmas in Rockefeller Center."[12] and later signed to Decca Records and released his debut album, My American Dream, on June 23, 2009, the day of the America's Got Talent's fourth season premiere. It debuted at #195 on the Billboard 200 and #3 on the Top Classical Albums Chart.[citation needed] In July 2009, Boyd then went on a 10-city tour from Dallas to D.C. with Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts [10] and was a guest performer on several television shows, including The Today Show and Live with Regis and Kelly.

In 2010, he headlined a second Las Vegas show at the Las Vegas Hilton, which also included other performers from the AGT's 3rd Season, like Eli Mattson, Kaitlyn Maher, Queen Emily and Nuttin' But Stringz.[13] His dressing room was the dressing room of Elvis Presley. On March 10 of that year, Boyd performed for U.S. President Barack Obama while he visited Missouri.[14][15] He also performed for Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George H. W. Bush.[citation needed]

Neal E. Boyd and former Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder

Boyd was the co-owner of Cox & Boyd Insurance Solutions, an insurance agency with locations in St Louis and Sikeston Missouri, and the Vice President of sales for Voluntary Benefit Services, also located in St. Louis.[citation needed]


In addition to music, Boyd was motivated throughout his life by public service and community involvement. After performing for Presidents Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama, Boyd also sang for seven governors.

Beginning in 1996, he was among the young people who worked for eight-term congressman Bill Emerson and then for congresswoman JoAnn Emerson. He sang at Bill's funeral that year.

In 1998, Boyd was selected for the Missouri Legislative Internship Program and moved to Jefferson City where he worked for State Representative Paula Carter. He was elected Speaker of the House in the interns’ legislative session.

In 2000, he sang at the memorial service for former Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, who died in a plane crash during his U.S. Senate run against then Senator and later U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, whom he later worked for when he was a Senator at the time. [10]

In 2003, he was a guest of the Emerson family and part of the delegation and ceremonial opening of the new $100 million Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. He sang the national anthem at the ceremony, and afterwards was one of the first Missourians to cross the new bridge in the parade that followed.

In 2005, he sang the National Anthem at the inauguration of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, who appointed Boyd to two of Missouri's commissions: the Workforce Development Board and the Training and Employment Council.

He ran for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives in 2012,[16] but lost to Democrat Steve Hodges by 66 to 34%.[17] On August 28, 2012, Boyd performed Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.[citation needed]

On September 5, 2013 Boyd announced that he would again seek to be elected to the Missouri House of Representatives from the 149th district in 2014. He was defeated in the August 2014 Republican primary by Don Rone, who won the seat in the November general election.[citation needed]

Various Missouri state and local officials nicknamed Boyd "The Voice of Missouri" due to his appearances at many prominent statewide events.[18]


Boyd donated to many charitable causes, and created a permanent legacy at his alma mater, Southeast Missouri State University. In 2015, to celebrate his education and experience and to support future students, he created the Neal E. Boyd Endowed Scholarship in Performing Arts. The scholarship is awarded annually to a student majoring in performing arts who meets a GPA requirement and demonstrates financial need. Preference is given to students involved in leadership activities such as Greek Life and the Student Government Association. As an alumnus Boyd was a recipient of the university's "Distinguished Service Award."[19]

Death & Tributes[edit]

2018 Neal E. Boyd memorial program

On the night of June 10, 2018, Neal E. Boyd died at the age of 42 at his mother's home in Sikeston, due to a combination of heart and kidney failure, compounded by liver disease according to a spokesperson from the Scott County coroner's office.[20][21] The following day, NBC said in a statement via “America’s Got Talent” social media channels: “We are very saddened to hear that one of our ‘AGT family members', Neal E. Boyd, has passed away. Our hearts are with Neal’s loved ones during this difficult time.” And former AGT Judge Piers Morgan expressed his sadness at the news, sharing a photo of him on Twitter with Boyd following his win on the third season and writing "Very sad to hear...(He was a) Lovely guy with a wonderful voice." A private funeral was held on June 15, 2018. On June 17, ten years after Boyd auditioned for AGT, the Southeast Missourian newspaper published an editorial titled "Neal Boyd blessed us all with his God-given talent." It concluded with: "Boyd lived a short life, but he left behind a legacy of making the most of his God-given talent through hard work, dedication and passion. He used his gifts to inspire and lift others and will be greatly missed."[22]

A complete obituary ran in the Southeast Missourian on November 10, 2018[23] and an obituary ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the following day[24] just ahead of the public memorial service. On November 18, on what would have been Boyd's 43rd birthday, friends and family gathered for a public memorial inside Academic Hall on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. The celebration included testimony from former Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and included a video clip of Boyd from America's Got Talent, music from his CDs, a live performance, personal stories, and an audio recording he made about what he would want to say to family and friends if he had to say goodbye.[25]

In February 2019, Britain's Got Talent winner Paul Potts reminded viewers about the legacy of Boyd, after his performance of Nessun Dorma on America’s Got Talent: The Champions. After host Terry Crews said "Now, Paul, I understand you have someone really special you'd love to dedicate your performance to tonight", the audience awed with a sad reaction and Paul spoke into the mic saying, “There is an America’s Got Talent winner that isn’t here tonight: Neal E. Boyd. Like me, he came on as an underdog, he gave his all (gave us all his story) and he won (with his heart), and one thing you could never take away is the fact that he is a champion. He is a winner.” before the audience applauded in tribute.[26]



Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
US US Class US
Year End
2009 My American Dream[27] 195 3 10 29


Year Single Peak Album
2009 "God Bless the U.S.A."[citation needed] My American Dream

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Neal E. Boyd - My American Dream - Music".
  2. ^ " Entertainment: A Neal Boyd timeline (06/30/08)".
  3. ^ a b c Essner, Leonna (June 5, 2002). "Boyd makes name for himself in song". Sikeston Standard Democrat. Also re-published by the Southeast Missourian as "Sikeston throws a party for Neal Boyd".
  4. ^ " Local News: Candidate questionnaire: Neal E. Boyd (10/01/12)".
  5. ^ " Local News: After weight loss, Boyd says 'time is now' to run for House (03/15/12)".
  6. ^ " Local News: Singer Neal E. Boyd to run for Missouri House seat (09/13/11)".
  7. ^ "Southeast Missouri State University".
  8. ^ " Column: Lucas Presson ~ Southeast Missourian: The Sunday Interview: Neal E. Boyd is raising his voice".
  9. ^ Darnell, Kathryn (2008-05-15). "Holding a High Note". Vox Magazine. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  10. ^ a b c Medlin, Jarrett (September 28, 2009). "After the Ovation".
  11. ^ "October declared Neal E. Boyd month in Sikeston". Sikeston Standard Democrat. September 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  12. ^ "Subscription required". Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "Missourian Neal E. Boyd to perform for President Obama during visit".
  15. ^ "Singer Neal E. Boyd looking forward to meeting president at St. Louis event" (March 9, 2010) Southeast Missourian
  16. ^ Harp, Justin (September 14, 2011). "'AGT' winner Neal E Boyd to run for office". Digital Spy.
  17. ^ Ruch, Amber (November 7, 2012). "Hodges wins Mo. House seat in 149th District". KVFS.
  18. ^ "Neal Boyd timeline". Retrieved 2008-10-01.
  19. ^ "Neal Boyd - Student Financial Services".
  20. ^ "Subscription required". Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  21. ^ Ben Beaumont-Thomas. "Neal E Boyd, opera singer who won America's Got Talent, dies aged 42". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  22. ^ "Subscription required". Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  23. ^ "Subscription required". Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  24. ^ "Neal Boyd - Obituary".
  25. ^ "Subscription required". Retrieved 2020-06-17.
  26. ^ "Paul Potts Dedicates His Finals Performance to Late AGT Winner Neal Boyd: 'Opera Belongs to Everyone'".
  27. ^ "Neal E. Boyd". Decca Records. Retrieved 2009-06-19.
  28. ^ ""Catch up with singer Neal E. Boyd, winner of America's Got Talent" (Summer 2010) Mizzou". Archived from the original on June 19, 2010.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Terry Fator
America's Got Talent winner
Season 3 (Summer 2008)
Succeeded by
Kevin Skinner