Echoes of heritage projected through the voice of a 19 year old young woman, generations of Blues Greats singing through a new soul…this is the sound of Zowie Boyd. To experience Zowie sing is to be transported back to the era of the Blues Greats – as if the spirit of Etta James has delivered us a great gift. Zowie’s deep involvement in singing began at 11 as a healing touch from her mom, who shared the voice with her young daughter as a solace of hope and strength during Zowie’s year of painful surgeries. Once an avid basketball player, Zowie’s days of flying over the court may have ended, but she has found new ways to soar through a voice that uplifts even higher. Want proof? Check this out.
Here at the Museum, one of my most precious responsibilities is to present experiences that will challenge, inspire and deeply touch our guests – encourage them to go out of their comfort zone and enter into new ways of thinking, feeling, exploring. When I present musicians here, I take the same approach, selecting artists who not only really excite me but who, more importantly, have the power to transform our guests’ experience as well. This is a challenge as any presenter will tell you, as determining who has that magic is an inexact science and relies on a lot of observation of body language, buzz after a performance and a bit of just plain guessing games. There are those rare times however, when audience response is palpable and powerful. It is those moments when we experience alchemy – when pupils dilate, bodies sway and hearts visibly soar in response to sound. When I first saw Zowie perform, I had the pleasure of watching this alchemy take place in the audience.
Each time I present her performance, I have audience members approach me after saying, “That child has something special” or “We better enjoy her while we can – soon she’ll be famous and performing to packed houses in Nashville or New York” or “We’ve got to get her in touch with an agent so she can make it big.” So this made me wonder, what does Zowie want? When I asked her, the answer was simple “Sure it would be fun to be famous but I don’t want to move. I’m happy here. This is home.”
For Zowie, this is the place that nurtured her. Here is the place where she thrives in a community of musicians who encourage and mentor her - musicians like Shane Morrow and the Creative Underground, Blues Performer Rick Rushing, legendary composer and educator Roland Carter. And here are the audiences that embrace her and celebrate her. While many forums gather to discuss the city’s support of the arts and seek to chart ways to make it stronger and more vibrant, Zowie sees it as a safe space, a welcoming place, a home for her music and for her soul. While Zowie dreams of learning new instruments, of building audiences for jazz and blues music, of performing for large crowds (and of taking care of animals and finishing her education in computer engineering on the side), her aspirations remain firmly planted in her home town, a town she believes in and thrives in and a place where she can really shine.