Neal E. Boyd was raised in Sikeston by his mother Ester. The family lived in poverty much of his life, and college was never a guarantee. Growing up as a racially mixed child in the rural Midwest, Neal looked to find his own identity.
He discovered opera in junior high and become enamored by the passion and skill of The Three Tenors. He taught himself to sing in Luciano Pavarotti’s and Plácido Domingo’s operatic styles. Blessed with a strong and expressive lead tenor voice, his talent pushed him onto the stage in school choirs and stage productions. Beyond his voice, his vibrant personality and lively humor made him a standout at Sikeston High School, where he served as Senior Class President. He graduated in 1994 and was proud to be heading to Southeast in the Fall.
Neal became involved across the campus, making friends around every corner. He was active in Student Government, the Interfraternity Council, the Student Activities Council, Residence Hall Association, and Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.
Neal was a frequent soloist for the university choir and performed numerous roles with the Opera All-Stars.
At the Inauguration of Southeast President Dale Nitzschke at the Show-Me Center, Neal was asked if he would step in for Maya Angelou at the last minute. His powerful solo performance made him a star across campus and the region.
Neal was a Speech Communication major with minors in Music and Political Science at Southeast, while also studying at the University of Missouri Columbia. Boyd would go on to earn two undergraduate degrees, both in May of 2001: A BA in Music from the University of Missouri Columbia, and a BA in Speech Communications and Political Science from Southeast.
During college he also took a semester to study political science, working in Jefferson City in the Missouri House of Representatives for 6 months.
He took great pride in winning the Music Teachers National Association Vocal Collegiate Championship in 2000. That event, with the help of the education, training, and opportunities that came from college, led to his solo recital debut at New York City’s famed Carnegie Hall in 2001.
Neal would later continue his education, studying opera at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.
In the years that followed, Neal enjoyed singing, teaching, speaking, and working as a salesman and personality for the national company Aflac.
In addition to music, Neal’s heart was motivated throughout his life by public service, politics, and community involvement. Sometimes behind the scenes, sometimes in an official capacity, and sometimes as an entertainer. Neal was proud to be among the young people who worked for eight-term Southeast Missouri Congressman Bill Emerson when he was serving in Congress. In December 2003 Neal was part of the delegation and ceremonial opening of the new $100 million Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, and one of the first Missourians allowed to cross it in the small parade that followed. Neal proudly sat on the stage at the Inauguration of Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt in 2005 and performed for the Governor, alongside local, state, and national leaders. Under the Blunt administration, Neal was appointed to two state commissions: the Missouri Workforce Development Board, and the Missouri Training and Employment Council