Liona Boyd

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Liona Boyd
Birth name Liona Maria Carolynne Boyd
Born (1949-07-11) July 11, 1949 (age 64)
London, England
Genres Classical music
Occupations Musician, composer
Instruments Guitar, Piano, vocals
Years active 1962–present
Labels Moston/Universal

Liona Maria Carolynne Boyd, CM, O.Ont, is a Canadian classical guitarist, composer, songwriter and singer. Boyd was born in London, England on July 11, 1949, moved to Canada with her parents when she was eight years old and became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1975. She lives in Toronto, Canada.


Boyd's father grew up in Bilbao, Spain and her mother grew up in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Her grandmother was from Linares, Spain, where the classical guitarist Andrés Segovia was born.

When she was 8 years old Liona emigrated to Canada from England with her family. She performed her first concert in a talent show on the ocean liner during the voyage. She played "The Blue Bells of Scotland" on a treble recorder.

Boyd received her first guitar as a Christmas present when she was 13. Her parents "had bought it (the guitar) in Spain when she was 6 years old".1

Turning point

In 1963 Boyd saw the English guitarist Julian Bream perform in the auditorium on the 7th floor of the Eaton's building at the intersection of Yonge and College in Toronto. Boyd vowed to master the guitar after watching Bream's performance. Bream "changed my life when I was 14", Boyd wrote in her autobiography.


As a teenager Boyd took private lessons with Andrés Segovia, as well as with Eli Kassner, Narciso Yepes, Alirio Díaz and Julian Bream.

In 1972 Boyd graduated with honours from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Performance.2 The same year she won the Canadian National Music Competition, held in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. In 1972 Boyd toured England with British guitarist John Mills.

From 1972–1974, she studied privately in Paris with Alexandre Lagoya, the renowned French classical guitarist.

In 1973, while studying with Lagoya, she busked on the streets of Nice for extra money.3 She also performed recitals in Belgium and Holland during this period. In Paris she performed at the Canadian Cultural Center and the American Cathedral.

Boyd has honorary doctorates from the University of Lethbridge, University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University, Brock University and the University of Victoria.

She has won the Juno Award for Instrumental Artist of the Year five times.4

First Lady of the Guitar

Boyd appeared on the cover of The Canadian magazine in 1975. In the story she was referred to as "The First Lady of the Guitar", a sobriquet that she has been identified with ever since. In 1978 Boyd released a record entitled The First Lady of the Guitar.

Publication of autobiography

In 1988, Stoddard Publishing of Toronto, Canada published Boyd's autobiography In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music.5

Performing career

In 1975, after her New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall, Andrés Segovia wrote a prescient message on a card and passed it to Boyd: "Through your beauty and talent you will conquer the public, philharmonic or not." 6

Since her New York debut, Liona Boyd has performed thousands of concerts in dozens of countries around the world. She has performed in all the major North American cities, as well as concert halls in London, Paris, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Munich, Santiago, Rio, São Paulo, Bogotá, Havana, Lisbon, Mexico City, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Bangkok, New Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Kathmandu, Singapore, Cairo, Istanbul, Thessaloniki, Athens, San Jose, San Salvador, and Santiago.

In the summer of 1975 Boyd opened for Gordon Lightfoot at major summer festivals the United States. In 1976 and 1977 she toured North America with Lightfoot, creating a new audience for classical guitar. In between Lightfoot tours Boyd continued to play smaller recitals.

In late November 1975 Boyd undertook a six week classical tour of northern British Columbia and the Yukon performing in high schools, churches, and hotel dining rooms. "Tradition has it that folk and pop artists pay their dues playing to rough crowds in smoky bars; I was paying mine in all the remote, snowbound communities of northwest Canada", wrote Boyd in her autobiography.7

In the mid-1970s Boyd played many recitals at guitar societies across North America.

Liona Boyd

In 1977 Boyd performed for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada.

She has performed for many political leaders including Pierre Trudeau, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, François Mitterrand, Zenko Suzuki, Giovanni Spadolini, Queen Sophia and King Juan Carlos of Spain, Fidel Castro, Helmut Schmidt, Sir Michael Manley, James Callaghan, José López Portillo, Edén Pastora, Óscar Arias, Prince Bandar, Saud bin Faisal bin Abdul Aziz, and Chun Doo Hwan.

In January 1977 Boyd performed in Chile, Brazil and Colombia South Americas.

In 1978 Boyd toured New Zealand.

Boyd toured Japan in 1980, playing solo and orchestral concerts.

She performed for G7 world leaders at the Twentieth Economic Summit Conference in July 1981 at the Chateau Montebello in Quebec.

In April 1982, Boyd performed the opening concert at the International Guitar Festival in Havana, Cuba.

She performed in Ottawa for the NATO Ministers of Defence in 1983.

In 1988 Boyd embarked on a 32-city cross-Canada tour.

She toured Europe with Tracy Chapman in November and December 1989 and performed in Frankfurt and Munich the week the Berlin Wall came down.

Boyd played a concert on Adnan Khashoggi's yacht Nabila, the day it was christened.8

Charitable performances

Boyd has given time to a variety of charitable causes. Past charitable performances include:

  • World Wildlife Fund
  • American Cancer Society
  • Help the Aged
  • Variety and Leukemia Telethons (USA & Canada)
  • The Weizmann Institute
  • Mother Teresa's Hospice (Calcutta)
  • Dixon Hall (Toronto's school for underprivileged children)
  • Heart Institute (Vancouver)
  • Israel Cancer Research Fund (Los Angeles)
  • Para Los Niños (Mexico)
  • Malibu Disaster Relief Fund
  • Duke of Edinburgh Awards (Glasgow and Leeds)
  • Friends of Sheba Medical Center
  • Children's Environmental Health Fund
  • Canadian Archeological Institute (Athens, Greece)
  • Animal Protection League
  • Walk on Water/Shake a Leg

Recording career

In 1974, Boyd released The Guitar, her first record. The recording was produced by Eleanor Sniderman, wife of Sam Sniderman, owner of Canada's Sam the Record Man stores. The Guitar was released in Canada on Boot Records, a label started by Stompin' Tom Connors, a country singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island. Boyd also released The Guitar Artistry of Liona Boyd and Miniatures for Guitar in Canada on Boot Records in the 1970s.

The Guitar and The Guitar Artistry of Liona Boyd were distributed in the United States and England by London Records. London released the "The Guitar" with the title of "Classical Guitar." 9

In 1976 Boyd joined SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) and established Mid-Continental Music, her publishing company.

Liona Boyd has recorded with the English Chamber Orchestra; as well as with Chet Atkins, Yo Yo Ma, Gheorghe Zamfir, The Canadian Brass, Frank Mills, Roger Whittaker, André Gagnon and Strunz & Farah, the Toronto Children's Chorus and the Orpheus Choir.

In 1986 she recorded Persona with rock guitarists David Gilmour and Eric Clapton. The project was produced by Michael Kamen.

In 1995 she recorded several of the themes in the music by Maurice Jarre to A Walk in the Clouds. The music won the Golden Globe for best score.

She released Camino Latino/ Latin Journey in 2002, a record that features guest performances by Strunz and Farah, Al Di Meola, Steve Morse, Jesse Cook, Johannes Linstead, Pavlo, Innis and Luis Villegas.

In 2009 she released Liona Boyd Sings Songs of Love with Srdjan Givoje and Seven Journeys: Music for the Soul and Imagination with Peter Bond.

In the autumn of 2013 she released the 15 song album "The Return...To Canada with Love" which featured instrumental pieces and vocal songs. "The Return" features special guests such as Olivia Newton-John , Dan Hill , Daniel Lavoie and many others. It was produced by Peter Bond and also features her accompanist, Michael Savona.


Liona Boyd released six records between 1974 and 1979: The Guitar/Classical Guitar (1974), The Guitar Artistry of Liona Boyd (1975), Miniatures for Guitar (1977), The First Lady of the Guitar (1978), The First Nashville Guitar Quartet (1979) and Liona Boyd with Andrew Davis and the English Chamber Orchestra (1979).

In 1979 Liona Boyd won the Juno award for Instrumental Artist of the Year.


Boyd released six records between 1980 and 1989: Spanish Fantasy (1980), A Guitar for Christmas (1981), The Best of Liona Boyd (1982), Virtuoso (1983), Liona Live in Tokyo (1984), The Romantic Guitar of Liona Boyd (1985), Persona (1986), Encore (1988), Christmas Dreams (1989) and Highlights (1989).

In 1982, 1983, and 1984 Boyd won Juno awards for Instrumental Artist of the Year.

In 1986, Boyd recorded the breakthrough album Persona, a mixture of Rock, New Age and Classical, with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and guitarists David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and Eric Clapton.


Boyd released four records between 1990 and 1999: Paddle to the Sea (1990), Dancing on the Edge (1991), Classically Yours (1995) and Whispers of Love (1999).

In 1996 Liona Boyd won the Juno award for Instrumental Artist of the Year.


In 2002 Boyd released Camino Latino, an album of original compositions in the nuevo-Latino style. The record features guest artists Al Di Meola, Jesse Cooke, Steve Morse, Luis Villegas, Pavlo, Johannes Linstead, Ron Korb, and Strunz and Farah.

Following a diagnosis of focal dystonia after the release of Camino Latino, Boyd was compelled to change the way she plays guitar. She reinvented herself by developing her songwriting and singing skills and playing less demanding guitar arrangements.10

Liona Boyd released two records in 2009. Liona Boyd Sings Songs of Love, seventeen duets with Srdjan Givoje, was released in September. Seven Journeys: Music for the Soul and Imagination, a collaboration with Peter Bond, was released in November.11

2011 to Present

In 2011 Liona returned to live in Canada after spending a year in Santa Monica, CA.

She started touring with her new accompanist, singer and classical guitarist Michael Savona.

In late 2011, Liona and producer Peter Bond began to collaborate on a new album of 15 songs she composed, inspired by Canada, called "The Return… To Canada with Love" and released by Universal Music Canada in September 2013. Guests included Olivia Newton-John, Dan Hill, Daniel Lavoie, Jann Arden, Serena Ryder, Michael Savona and others.

She also released a theme song for Toronto, where she now resides.


Boyd was married to John B. Simon from 1992 until 2004. Prior to the marriage she had important relationships with Pierre Trudeau and Joel Bell.

Lenin's piano

During a private WPO tour of the Kremlin in December 1991 Boyd played the first chords of O Canada on Lenin's piano.12

On New Year's Eve she played Granada by Agustín Lara at a gala. Boyd was the only non-Russian invited by Gavriil Popov, the mayor of Moscow, to perform at this event.

R D Laing

Boyd once played a private recital for R D Laing, the controversial Scottish psychiatrist.13

O J Simpson jury

At Judge Lance Ito's request, Boyd performed a private concert for the sequestered jury during the O J Simpson trial.14


Title Label Year
The Guitar/Classical Guitar Boot/London 1974
The Guitar Artistry of Liona Boyd Boot/London 1975
Miniatures for Guitar Boot/CBS Masterworks 1977
The First Lady of the Guitar Columbia 1978
The First Nashville Guitar Quartet RCA 1979
Liona Boyd with Andrew Davis and the English Chamber Orchestra CBS Masterworks 1979
Spanish Fantasy CBS Masterworks 1980
A Guitar for Christmas CBS Masterworks 1981
The Best of Liona Boyd CBS Masterworks 1982
Virtuoso CBS Masterworks 1983
Liona Live in Tokyo CBS Masterworks 1984
The Romantic Guitar of Liona Boyd CBS Masterworks 1985
Persona CBS Masterworks 1986
Encore A & M 1988
Christmas Dreams A & M 1989
Highlights A & M 1989
Paddle to the Sea Oak Street 1990
Dancing on the Edge Moston 1991
Classically Yours Moston 1995
Whispers of Love Moston 1999
Camino Latino Moston 2002
Liona Boyd Sings Songs of Love Moston/Universal 2009
Seven Journeys: Music for the Soul and Imagination (Liona Boyd and Peter Bond) Moston/Universal 2009
The Return...To Canada with Love Moston/Universal 2013


  1. ^ "Liona Boyd Interview". Guitarhoo!. May 19, 2004. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Liona Boyd", The Canadian Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Liona Boyd (1998). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 80. 
  4. ^ "Juno Awards". Juno Award. Retrieved 2009-11-29. dead link
  5. ^ "In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music". AMICUS: The Canadian National Catalogue. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  6. ^ Liona Boyd (2008). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 65. 
  7. ^ Liona Boyd (1998). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 100. 
  8. ^ Liona Boyd (1998). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 215. 
  9. ^ Album Jacket for LONDON ffrr (Full Frequency Range Recording) No. CS7015
  10. ^ "Liona Boyd: Singer". The National. 15 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  11. ^ Dixon, Guy (6 November 2009). "Liona Boyd: five years of healing, two new albums, one rebirth". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  12. ^ Liona Boyd (1998). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 320. 
  13. ^ Liona Boyd (1998). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 135. 
  14. ^ Liona Boyd (1998). In My Own Key: My Life in Love and Music. Stoddard Publishing. p. 344. 

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