Santa Maria Sun / Cover Story
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 9
A lady of legacyThe late Patricia 'Patty' Boyd, Santa Maria's consummate piano teacher, has left Allan Hancock College a record-breaking and campus-altering bequest
BY JOE PAYNE
My artistic career essentially began in the living room of Patricia Jean Boyd, known as Patty Boyd to parents, and—respectfully—as Ms. Boyd to her students. I remember clearly our first meeting: I was 7 years old, and already slightly taller than she. After a brief introduction, I found myself sitting at the beautiful baby grand in her immaculate yet humble living room where began the weekly ritual of my education in playing the piano.
Even as I type these words, I notice my wrists are level with the top of my hands and first knuckle—a posture of paramount importance in piano playing—and a small white baton comes to my memory. Ms. Boyd would use it to tap time and, when my untrained wrists began to sag, to gently raise them into the proper conformity. Her sage guidance engendered in me a profound love and understanding of music, but also an understanding that discipline always yielded favorable results and a sense of comforting familiarity, that good work done today would result in great outcomes tomorrow.
Already elderly when she began teaching me, Boyd instructed, literally, generations of Santa Marians, either privately or during her time as an instructor at Allan Hancock College. Certainly there wasn’t a single former student whose heart wasn’t touched when they learned of her passing in July of last year, and no doubt more so—as mine was—when hearing the news from Allan Hancock College announced last month.
At the time of her death, Boyd, whose mother’s maiden name was Rice—as in Rice Ranch and Rice Elementary School—was sitting on some serious assets, including acres of Santa Maria farmland. Before her passing, she prepared a will that gave the bulk of her assets to the Allan Hancock College Music Department. The college still can’t quote that amount to the penny because more assets are still being liquidated, but the funds received are already totaling upward of $10 million and are expected to cap out at around $12 million.
A donation of this magnitude is practically unprecedented. Allan Hancock College has never seen a private bequest of this magnitude in all its history, and the donation currently stands as the second largest private donation made to a community college in the state of California. But just as she guided my hand on the piano, so has she guided the money, stipulating that it must be reserved for the physical assets of the Santa Maria campus’ music department—a mandate that’s set the college abuzz with possibilities.
The music department at Hancock doesn’t stand alone as a recipient of her generosity; the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts (PCPA) also received a bequest of $1 million, given without limitation. Boyd was a patron and pedagogue, and her gifts serve simply as a coda to a life of generosity and love of art, which will reach beyond her years to countless students of music who will invariably become professional musicians, performers, and teachers themselves.
A life of skill
Allan Hancock College held a small, private reception to commemorate Patty Boyd’s bequest on April 15. The event included members of the Allan Hancock College Foundation, school administration, staff, and other related parties, including Patricia Rice, Boyd’s cousin, who acted as a trustee of Boyd’s estate.
“She was my father’s first cousin, she was my godmother, and she was a childhood friend of my mother’s,” Rice said, “but to me she was always Aunt Pat.”
Rice related anecdotes of Boyd’s early life in Santa Maria. She was born in 1920 and graduated from Santa Maria High School in 1938 and continued on in education to earn a bachelor of arts degree in music from San Jose State College, as well as some graduate work.
“She went to Hancock first, and then transferred to Wheaton College in Illinois,” Rice said. “Then she went to San Jose where she majored in music. She never got her masters, but right after she graduated, every year she would do some post-graduate work.”
Patty Boyd was the child of Elmer Boyd and Gertrude Rice. Gertrude was the daughter of Florence and H.W. Rice, known locally for founding Santa Maria’s first school district and community bank, and for being a big agricultural landowner. As Boyd grew up, she spent a lot of time with her grandparents, Rice explained.
“Much of her formative years she spent with her grandfather,” Rice said. “W.H. was a taskmaster and he would never let her say ‘I can’t.’ I think that pushed her and basically made her who she was.”
That kind of support and inspiration led Boyd to seek skills many people around her thought she might not be capable of, due to her dwarfism—like driving a car, which she learned secretly with the help of her uncle. She surprised her grandfather by driving him to the market one day, Rice recalled.
Rice, who was named after Patty Boyd, was a piano student of Boyd’s in her youth.
“I was probably the worst student she had,” she recalled, “but she understood performance is an integral part of being a musician. We would have recitals, all her students, at the Minerva Club, and there would always be ice cream afterwards.”
Though Rice may not have gone on in piano, many of Boyd’s students did. One local pianist and tuner, Jim Enos, took lessons from Boyd as a teenager in the 1950s, something he says prepared him for a life of professional piano playing.
“In my formative years, she really inspired me and she set me on the right track on the actual mechanics of playing,” he said. “She gave me my dexterity and speed, so I owe her that.”
Enos also related the number of students Boyd had and the rate she charged, which helped her live independently in her adulthood.
“She was very nice and serious about her students doing well,” he said. “She had about 60 students then, and it cost $10 a month, so she was making $600 a month, which was good money back in 1950 when the going rate was $200 a month.”
Boyd didn’t limit her teaching to private instruction; she also taught at Allan Hancock College for several years. She taught group piano classes and solo classes for advanced students through the college. She was there in the 1980s when Dr. Marcus Englemann—now a full-time music instructor at the college—began teaching.
“She was still working here when I came here, and I got to know her,” Englemann said. “She was somebody that helped me kind of figure out the ropes when I was here.
“The students really loved her,” he added, “and as I recall she stopped teaching here because her mother was getting really elderly and she needed to take care of her.”
Though Boyd left the campus as a teacher, she was still an important and respected figure at Allan Hancock College, especially at PCPA. A regular play attendee, Boyd was also a regular donor to the theater company.
“Even prior to the amazing million-dollar donation, she was still the greatest donor that PCPA had,” said PCPA Executive Director Mark Booher. “Every year she was giving a very substantial personal gift to the theater. She really put her money where her values were.”
Booher, who came to PCPA in 2006, only met Boyd a handful of times at her home. She was afflicted with Parkinson’s disease in her later years and couldn’t make it to the plays due to her discomfort, but she still donated to the theater company each year.
“The interesting thing: She had this great kind of fiery spirit in her that I could see even though she was quite elderly and dealing with that disease,” Booher said. “So, our goal was to bring a little bit of PCPA to her.”
He sometimes brought actors from current productions to perform musical numbers for her with accompaniment on her piano. PCPA also provided scrapbooks filled with photos and content from the plays Boyd was helping to fund, yet unable to watch.
“That is one of the things that I found so moving about her, is that she invested in art even when she personally couldn’t enjoy it anymore,” he said. “She gave because she knew first hand that it was important and that it enriched the lives of people, and even after she couldn’t get out of the house, she would still contribute. It’s really so beautiful and so rare.”
Ms. Boyd’s opus
As both a student and as a teacher of music, I can attest that when someone studies such an intimate art that requires personal guidance, the student is always connected to the teacher by an invisible strand of knowledge. Many of the teaching techniques I employ are straight from Patty’s playbook, and go on to enrich the lives of another generation.
And that’s the power in the bequest she’s left Allan Hancock College.
“This money is to be used for the physical needs of the music department,” said Dr. Ann Lucas, music instructor and choir director at the college. “These are the things that, when budgets get really tight and crunchy, go un-bought, un-purchased, and un-dreamed of.”
A physical asset that always proves costly to a music department is sheet music. Hancock’s music library, while extensive, can appear quite dated sometimes, especially for the choir, which has hardly any contemporary choral music in its library. Instruments are also a huge cost for a music department.
“We have several pianos that are probably around 40 years old,” Englemann said, “and almost all of our instruments for the concert band were here when I got here.”
Englemann also teaches sound recording, as well as electronic music classes, all of which are heavily dependent on expensive digital technology."“Things in technology are always changing,” he said. “It needs to be updated on a regular basis.”
The biggest hope for the music department is a new performance hall for the college, which was actually the first example given in Boyd’s bequest as a “physical asset.” The college’s current performing space is made up of the Severson and Marian theaters, which have always been reserved for PCPA.
“From the beginning of PCPA, as successful as it is and as much as they need the revenue coming in, they just dominate the only performance space we have,” Englemann said. “Up until now, and even now, the state says we have enough performance space for the size of the college we are.”
PCPA doesn’t dominate the space for hubristic reasons. The theaters are used day in and out for rehearsals by conservatory staff and students, and at night they’re reserved for PCPA performances—every one of which is necessary for keeping the organization profitable. Only twice a year can PCPA afford to lend the Marian Theatre to the college’s dance department, during one week each semester for Dimensions in Dance and Dance Spectrum. The music department gets the Marian Theatre once a year for Soundscapes, the showcase for the electronic music class.
“One of the great things about PCPA is that we actualize what happens in the studio when we show it on stage,” Booher said. “Patty Boyd knew that a really important part of being a musician is not just the work in the practice room or studio, but sharing it and performing.”
Allan Hancock College, though not supported financially by the state to increase its performance space, now has a source to pull from to build a quality performance hall that would be a valuable asset to not just the music department, but the dance department as well. It’s an asset the college is interested in pursuing, according to Allan Hancock College interim president Dr. Elizabeth Miller.
“I think her real concept idea—hope—was that there would be a performance space, like a concert hall,” Miller said. “We’re at the very early stages of this, and I think we are very hopeful that we may meet that vision, but there is quite a process that is in place.”
Anyone who drives by Allan Hancock College today can see several large construction projects under way, and several being prepared. Many of these buildings in transition were supported by not just the state, but the funds afforded by Measure I, which was approved by Northern Santa Barbara County residents in 2006 to improve the infrastructure of Allan Hancock College, part of which included the building of a new Fine Arts Department.
“Measure I allows for improvements in technology as well as construction, and it is really transforming the campus,” Miller said. “The Fine Art project itself is a Measure I project, and the effort is to bring together the Fine Arts programs.”
The many pieces of the fine arts department are currently spread across the campus. The video and film program is on the other end from the music department, even though there’s some overlap in the programs where sound technology is concerned. Even PCPA, whose performance space is on campus, is geographically splintered. The college rents out business space in the Columbia Business Center across Stowell from the college, where much of PCPA’s administrative offices, workshops, and rehearsal spaces are located.
The new fine arts department building is a long-awaited remedy to those problems, designed to unite all of the visual and performing arts. The building project has been a long time coming; it’s been redesigned twice and has been pushed back on the schedule due to a lack of available funds. Measure I takes monies from property tax revenues in Santa Maria, and since the economic downturn, the projected funds haven’t been available.
“The economy hasn’t been kind for a lot of reasons over the last few years,” Miller said. “When the building was designed, there was no performance space in it because we didn’t have the funding for that scope.”
The lack of a performance hall for the music and dance departments came as a letdown to many people in performing arts when the last redesign was announced.
“For me, it was the saddest thing of the drawing of the new fine arts building to come, that there was no concert hall, which in a way should have been the focal point of the new fine arts building,” said Ann Lucas. “I think that’s one of the most significant weaknesses in our school’s music program … we don’t have a public home to perform in that we own.”
All of Hancock’s musical ensembles have to perform off campus. The only performance spaces capable of housing the AHC Concert Band, AHC Jazz Band, and AHC Singers are churches: First Baptist Church, Unity Chapel of Light, and First Methodist Church, respectively.
“When you don’t have a place on campus to perform, your presence in the life of the college is greatly diminished,” Lucas said. “Despite our best efforts, there are people who have no idea that we have a dance department, or a choir, or a band!”
No matter where they perform, Hancock’s ensembles usually sell out the house, sometimes even filling 600-seat venues. Teachers like Lucas are reticent to see a performance hall that includes only a couple hundred seats, which would sell the department short, she said.
“We attract big crowds, and if we had a good concert hall with the seating to accommodate it, that would add luster in every way—not just for performers, but for the school to host it,” she said.
Using Boyd’s bequest to add a concert hall to the new Fine Arts building isn’t an impossible task. The newest version of the plan is currently awaiting approval from the state, after which the plan is good for two years—but, due to the economy, the college might have to wait that long anyway to break ground on the project, during which time the plan can be redrafted to include the concert hall.
“It probably has a better chance of being able to be that kind of a performance space as part of the fine arts building,” Miller said. “It would probably be easier than starting from scratch.”
The college is currently researching cost analyses as to the feasibility of a concert hall as an addition to the fine arts building project, as well as a standalone concert hall, separate from the building project. Until then, the money is being held by the Allan Hancock College Foundation, which invests it to keep accruing interest, which will hopefully cover the costs of such a mammoth project, which might exceed a $10 million bill.
“You have to look at it very carefully and see if that money goes far enough to allow for a real stage with a real backstage working area,” Lucas said. “That’s what apparently makes a concert hall expensive: If you want to do opera, dance, or theater, you have to have wings, and unseen hands behind the stage.”
A concert hall of that kind of magnitude wouldn’t just be a valuable performance space for the music and dance departments, but for other local ensembles, touring groups, or presentations and special lectures.
“These are all things that form a kind of critical mass,” Lucas said, “because then your arts program and your commitment to the arts, word begins to get around, it’s kind of an ‘if you build it they will come’ thing.”
All of these aspects are elements that could invigorate the campus and community and help make Allan Hancock College even more of a destination spot than it already is, thanks to PCPA.
“Whenever you build a building you have to be looking 50 years or more ahead, it’s going to be there that long,” Englemann said. “So if you think of how the city is going to be in that time, it’s going to be bigger, and there is going to be all kinds of people here as time goes on and there is going to be a need for it.”
Patty Boyd, who watched Santa Maria grow immensely over her 90-plus years, certainly understood a need in the community. And with her bequest, Allan Hancock College can elevate its music department in a variety of ways, including transforming the campus and the community.
“She had a much larger vision,” Lucas said. “She was a person that took the long view, and in our society people who take the long view are pretty rare, and here we are, the direct beneficiaries of someone who was able to look ahead and see what this money could do and what it would mean.
“Everyone at every level of this process is on the same page with that,” she added. “Everyone is committed to doing the right and careful thing.” m
Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at jpayne@
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