Classical guitarist Liona Boyd has performed in Carnegie Hall and for heads of state, including Ronald Reagan, Fidel Castro and Margaret Thatcher. But the 41-year-old Beverly Hills resident's happiest experiences have been during benefits for people who could not afford to pay for the strings on her guitar, much less buy a concert ticket.
Boyd, who joined Jimi Hendrix, Chet Atkins and Albert King in Guitar Player Magazine's Gallery of the Greats last year, has made 18 recordings, including a pop recording released last December.
But she has also found time to give charity performances abroad--in India, Chile and Cuba, for instance--and at home. She performed last year at Pepperdine University to raise money for fire victims and will play Tuesday in Pasadena to help fund the reconstruction of Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London.
Boyd, who has recorded solo and jointly with musical luminaries such as Eric Clapton and Yo-Yo Ma, receives a different kind of payment for her charity work.
For her two public appearances in Cuba last month, in Havana and Matanzas, she received travel expenses and a painting, she said. She also gave a free class to classical guitar students.
In a benefit performance several years ago in Calcutta, for Mother Teresa's hospice, her reward was the "beautiful, smiling faces and appreciation" of many who lay near death.
"These are really special kinds of concerts," she said.
Boyd, who is writing a book about her experiences as an international classical guitarist and composer, said that, for her, "classical music has become a kind of musical ambassador that speaks to people on an emotional and spiritual level."
One engagement took her by canoe to the Cree Indian town of Moose Factory in Ontario, Canada. "The bugs were unbelievable," the former Toronto resident said.
More than 400 residents jammed the local church for what was, for many, their first experience with classical music, she said.
Boyd said a planned private performance for Castro last month fell through at the last minute. But one of her more amusing experiences, she said, occurred when she played for him in 1982. Boyd is allergic to cigar smoke but said nothing when Castro lit up one of his country's national symbols.
"He was puffing away and my eyes were watering," she said. He must have thought Boyd had a cold, she said, because he urged her to take a lot of Vitamin C and royal bee jelly.
Although she wishes Cuba and the United States could develop closer ties, Boyd said she tries to stay out of the politics of the countries she visits.
"I'm here to play for the people," she said. "My coming won't change any political regime."
Currently, Boyd is preparing for Tuesday's fund-raiser in Pasadena. She will join a cast of celebrities that includes Lynn Redgrave, Elliott Gould, Charlton Heston and Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of "Star Trek, The Next Generation"), to remember the late Sam Wanamaker, an American expatriate whose lifelong dream was to resurrect Shakespeare's Globe Theater on the south bank of the Thames in London.
The theater, where Shakespeare had been resident playwright, burned down in 1613, was rebuilt and then was torn down in 1644, two years after the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell closed all playhouses.
Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust in 1971 to raise the more than $30 million needed to rebuild the theater, but he died at his London home last December before seeing the work finished. The 1,500-seat theater is scheduled to open on Wanamaker's birthday, June 14, in 1995.
The benefit, hosted by Redgrave and Stewart, will be held in the 275-seat Ambassador Recital Hall at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Pasadena. Tickets are $50. Information: (213) 467-0287.