THOUSAND OAKS : Classical Guitar Strikes Right Note With Kids

Judging by the rowdy applause, hoots of approval and swarms of young autograph seekers, one would have thought a famous rock star had taken the stage at the Westlake Hills elementary school auditorium.

Instead, hoards of youngsters swooned over the tunes of Liona Boyd, a world-renowned classical guitarist who just two weeks ago entertained England's Prince Phillip at his castle.

As a teacher rattled through a list of royalty and world leaders Boyd has entertained--including President Reagan, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, French President Francois Mitterrand and King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain--the 300 children in the hot gym politely listened.

But when they learned that she had played with Eric Clapton and performed for the O.J. Simpson jurors, a chorus of oohs and ahs arose from the young audience. As one child in the crowd murmured, "She must really be famous."

Boyd was invited to play at the school last year as part of its performing arts curriculum by teacher Joni Simons, who is married to Boyd's stepson.

"I don't usually play at schools," Boyd said. "But when I was here last year, they were so responsive and appreciative. They just loved it."

Choosing pieces that demonstrated the versatility of the guitar, Boyd turned the impressionable crowd into rabid converts to classical guitar.

"I like the Eskimo part when she pounded on the guitar because it made a cool sound," said 8-year-old Kayla Siracusa, referring to a song in which Boyd made a drum-like sound by thumping on the guitar with her thumb.

Eight-year-old Alex Miller said he was startled that Boyd could make the guitar sound like "stars" during her rendition of "Silent Night."

After the performance, Boyd was mobbed by autograph seekers.

Others, like 10-year-old Richard Mafrica, said they were going to store their autographs next to those from their other heroes. "I'm going to keep mine in my bedroom next to Roberto Clemente Jr., the baseball player," he said.

Boyd will perform as a guest soloist with New West Symphony on Friday at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium and Saturday at the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks.

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