Charles N Boyd

Founder of the Pittsburgh Musical Institute and NASM

At the turn of the 20th century the Pittsburgh media hailed Charles N. Boyd as "an impressive and important musical presence in Pittsburgh".  His contributions to music the world are many.  He co-founded in 1915 a top ranked music school, the Pittsburgh Musical Institute, serving as its director and an instructor of organ and music theory.  The Music Teachers National Association elected him president in 1918 and 1919.  Boyd founded the Pittsburgh Choral Society in 1919 and directed its concerts with leading opera stars such as Louise Homer at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.  In 1924 he was one of the founders NASM, the National Association of Schools of Music and Allied Arts, that is now the principal U.S. accreditor for 625 higher education music programs.  He served as the first treasurer of NASM.  As a scholarly writer Boyd was an author of the “Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians” published in 1920 and seven text books on music theory and other topics.  He was also a contributing writer to several music journals.  Throughout his life he performed as a concert pianist and organist.  Expert on hymnology he served as organist and musical director of the North Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church.  As a music teacher he instructed students in organ, piano, and music composition.  He most famous pupil was the renowned composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn.  Boyd was also a manager of several performers.

Charles Newell Boyd was born in Pleasant Unity, Pa. on December 2, 1875.  He was the son of Rev. A. Fulton Boyd and Ann Paul Boyd.  He attended the Poland Union Seminary and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1894. He was an accomplished pianist and organist.  After several years of teaching private music lessons, in 1903 he became the Instructor of Church Music at the Western Theological Seminary on the North Side.  Joining with fellow musicians Frank Milton Hunter, William H Oetting, and Dallmeyer Ruessell he founded the Pittsburgh Musical Institute (PMI) in 1915. Offering undergraduate and graduate level instruction in voice, instrumental performance and music education the school had annual enrollments of 2,000 students at its Oakland headquarters.  PMI also offered music instruction to children and adults at 28 branch studios throughout Western, Pa.  During the 1920s PMI was ranked as one of the top music schools in the country and was one of the six founding members of NASM. 

Boyd lived with his wife and four daughters at 5523 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside.  On April 24, 1937 Charles Boyd collapsed and slumped at his organ at the Pittsburgh Musical Institute as he was playing an informal organ concert of religious music for Rev N.C. Milliron.  He died a few moments later at age 61.

At the time of his death Charles N. Boyd had been personally instructing Billy Strayhorn in music theory and composition at the Pittsburgh Musical Institute.  Strayhorn left the school when Boyd died suddenly. In a 1962 interview Strayhorn said: “He was so wonderful, that I didn't think there was anyone else there who could teach me so I didn't stay." 

A voracious reader of music journals, newspapers, and magazines he clipped articles and photos saving them in 115 historical scrapbooks.  He also amassed a large library of 2000 music books, journals and musical scores.  After his death a group of Pittsburgh musicians formed the Charles N. Boyd Memorial Musicological Library Association.  They held a benefit memorial concert in Boyd’s honor on October 6, 1941 at the North Side Carnegie Music Hall to raise funds for the association.  Violinist Roy Shoemaker and pianist Dallmey Russell along with other faculty members and students of the Pittsburgh Musical Institute performed.  Proceeds from the concert were used to purchase Body’s private library and scrap books.  Body’s collection was donated to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Music Division.  The Musicological Library Association continued to hold annual concerts in Boyd’s honor for several years.   The eight annual concert was held in 1948 to raise additional funds for the Carnegie Library’s music collection.

Charles N. Boyd was the author / co-author of the following books: The history and use of hymns and hymn-tunes (1903), Recent advances in instruction in music (1923), Organ accompaniment and registration (1932), Famous melodies for bassoon: with piano accompaniment (1932), The organist and the choirmaster (1936), Elements of musical theory (1938), and Chorales of Johann Sebastian Bach (1939).

Pittsburgh Musical Institute