Berto Boyd, 41, grew up in the town of Ventura, California, which was a pretty rough area with multitudes of gangs seeping among every corner of the streets. He played the piano at the age of 5 and dreamed about becoming a successful artist like Picasso one day. He spent most of his early teen’s skateboarding, surfing, drawing, and playing guitar. Due to the rising gang violence and a friend’s death, Berto entered a surf gang for protection. The tragedies due to gang violence wouldn’t quit and when a local biker gang began looking for him, Berto then entered what his friends called the “Flamenco guitar witness protection program”. It was during this period of time while in isolation where he began rigorous study of the Classical guitar, Brazilian Jazz, and then later on went to Spain to study Flamenco- a passionate art form native to the region of Andalusia.
After countless hours, days, and years of self-education, along with formal studies and classes, including Composition and Musical Theory and Analysis at Ventura College, Boyd eventually mastered the delicate art of Flamenco. “You have to trust yourself, be brave, and take risks,” he said. And thanks to that proactive approach, Boyd was able to begin his professional playing career circa 1997/98, starting a new chapter in his 29 year history with the guitar, ever since gracing audiences with his soulful interpretation of the genre. Highly successful, some of his favorite stints include a musical directorship for a talent contest at Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta.
Boyd is set to meet with the OSU orchestra in May and may be playing with them in the future. He also recently transcribed the largest piece of music in the history of flamenco—over 500 hours’ worth. Boyd actually finds himself as one of the few people in the world who can successfully listen to and and transcribe the notes of flamenco music, considering the music is mostly played by ear.
Now, some of you may be thinking, why Corvallis? Boyd was searching for a safe place to raise his five-year-old daughter where his profession could also flourish, and “…Corvallis kept popping up.” Apparently the Pacific Northwest is fertile ground for Flamenco!
Currently Boyd is involved in several non-profit organizations, and hopes to make Corvallis a guitar destination of sorts. Boyd acts as the musical director of Flamenco Pacifico and owner of the international guitar series Flamenco Guitar Class. He is also the artistic director of the Corvallis Guitar Society, which meets at Gracewinds Music on the first Monday of every month. The gathering features artists while attempting to raise musical literacy by encouraging attendees to showcase their skills.
Boyd is also involved in the Benton County Skateboarding Alliance, which creates video interviews to raise awareness and crowdfunding, and aims to expand the Corvallis skatepark. “Skating helps to be creative. It develops skills and makes you self-driven,” said Boyd, endorsing it further by citing skating as a personal source of his own spatial awareness and overall identity.
Reflecting on his upbringing, Boyd had this to offer as advice to aspiring artists: “Things are different. We didn’t have distractions—all the technology—and focused less on other people and more on the self. So much imitation is going on, so be original. Unplug from technology and follow your heart.”
To see Berto Boyd live and in action, attend “The Spanish Guitar” at the Majestic Theater on Friday, April 22 or Saturday, April 23, presented by the Corvallis Guitar Society. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for students, seniors, and members and $18 for the general public. “The Spanish Guitar” will be part lecture, part performance, and part demonstration and will offer a rich historical view of the Spanish guitar.
By Megan Pulley
(Several corrections were made to this piece from the print version for accuracy. Apologies for the inconvenience.)