Rupert’s mighty bite of Big Apple success

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“I’LL be the guy with the big guitar on my back,” says Rupert Boyd, as we arrange to meet on Broadway for a chat.

He’s the brilliant Canberra guitarist who’s been taking Manhattan by storm and, yes, as the grandson of modernist Australian architect Robin, he’s one of those Boyds.

Guitarist Rupert Boyd... “The word around the expatriate community in New York is that he’s just about the most successful of our young whizkids in the Big Apple,” says Helen Musa. Photo by Helen Musa
Guitarist Rupert Boyd… “The word around the expatriate community in New York is that he’s just about the most successful of our young whizkids in the Big Apple,” says Helen Musa. Photo by Helen Musa
Educated at Ainslie Primary, Campbell High and Dickson College, Boyd has graduated with first-class honours under Timothy Kain from the ANU, an artist diploma from the Yale School of Music and a masters from the Manhattan School of Music, where he won the Andrés Segovia award.

As he steers me towards the best brioches on Broadway, Boyd regales me with stories about minimalist music guru Terry Riley, traditionalist audiences at the Newport Festival, Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt’s interest in music and the unbelievable amount of money around Yale.

The word around the expatriate community in New York is that he’s just about the most successful of our young whizkids in the Big Apple, but it wasn’t always so. When he left home eight and a half years ago to study in the US, he didn’t know a soul, “but after two weeks I felt I did,” he reports – there’s so much stimulation here.”

Boyd hasn’t starved, and feels “very, very lucky.” But neither is he much good at business, telling me, “I hate talking about money”. Heredity is against him. His great-grandfather, the ceramicist, Merric Boyd, used to give away his now-priceless pots to friends. With a shrug he quips, “sometimes, I think I have that in me.”

Graduating from Yale in 2008 he found non-campus life tough, but after an invitation to play in Washington DC and Chicago and a superb review in “The Washington Post” that began, “Remember the name Rupert Boyd,” he attracted the interest of US agent Dan McDaniel.

Soon there were invitations to perform at the Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island, the New York Festival of Song and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The D’Addario Music Foundation sponsored his debut in Carnegie Hall. His calendar is full well into 2014.

Meantime, Boyd formed the Australian Guitar Duo with fellow ANU graduate, Jacob Cordover, now living in Barcelona, and together they’ve toured the world. Coming up in October is a gig on the “Queen Mary 2’s” Atlantic crossing from New York City to Hamburg, and there is talk of 10 days in the Caribbean. Well as the joke goes, somebody has to do it.

When we meet, he’s preparing to perform three concerts a day at the Newport Festival, one in a three-storey Vanderbilt mansion called The Breakers. Then it’s off to Australia, where we’ll see him perform with American cellist Laura Metcalf in an “election-free concert” on Election Eve, September 6.

It’s all been hard work, but Boyd’s not complaining: “Everyone I know in New York City is a workaholic, but I love it,” he says, as he picks up that guitar.

Guitarist Rupert Boyd and cellist Laura Metcalf play Schubert’s de Falla and Paert, at Wesley Music Centre, 7:30pm, Friday, September 6, Tickets at the door.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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