Dr. Paul Boyd, a piano professor at College of the Mainland, performed in concert a song cycle, “Who Am I?”, at the Smithsonian recently.  The sold-out performance was received with a standing ovation.

Set to live music composed by Houston’s Mary Carol Warwick and influenced by the poetry of incarcerated youth, the work was commissioned by Anthony Turner, a voice professor at Wagner College in New York and the New York University Tisch New Studio on Broadway. 

The songs in “Who Am I?” were influenced by the poems of Jeannine Otis.  They offer a tribute to the victims of gun violence while conveying a sense of hope for our communities, our criminal justice system and humanity.  A selection entitled “Dear Most High” carries a poignant dedication to those lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I first encountered these poems, which were predominantly written by incarcerated youth,” Turner said.  “At that time, the issues of incarceration, marginalization and victimization found in these poems were very much in my consciousness. Tragically, these issues persist to date.” 

Who Am I? was premiered by Foundation for Modern Music in April 2013 at Zilkha Hall in Houston.  It returns to the Houston-Galveston area next February.

Boyd also carries the honor of being named a Cultural Ambassador by the City of Houston and is active as a clinician, performer and volunteer, having presided over Houston Music Teachers and Houston Suzuki Piano Associations.  He is a faculty member of American Festival for the Arts’ summer program and currently serves as Artistic and Executive Director of Foundation for Modern Music, an organization presenting a full season of concerts each year.

“The cycle deals with raw, real experiences of our day that the poets were going through such as child abuse, racism, rage and violence – yet ends with an uplifting gospel-style number that tempts listeners to sing along”, said Boyd. “This is an ideal example of how the arts give healthy and effective expressive outlets for our youth. It is especially gratifying to be part of a performance where we can hear the audience gasp in response to the powerful messages.”