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Curriculum Vitae — James Boyk

James Boyk is talented well beyond the normal degree granted to genius types.... How can he be a professional musician, the instigator of an active series of musical encounters (which he organizes and leads) at Caltech, an active recording engineer, a faculty member in electrical engineering and a highly active author/consultant, all at once? ... The reviews, from all the dailies and monthly magazines, read like panegyrics of the great keyboard artists.... [Performance Recordings is] a label that is an audiophile's dream and something of a pianist's mecca. Ovation



Other Experience:

  • 30 years at California Institute of Technology:
  • Consultant to the Provost for Systems Analysis, California Institute of the Arts, 1972-73.
  • Programmer/Analyst, Education Systems Division, System Development Corp., 1968-69.
  • Mathematician/Programmer, Hughes Aircraft Co., 1966-67. In charge of largest computer program for Surveyor Moon-Lander.
  • Mathematician, Fundamental Research Center, Owens-Illinois Glass Co., 1965.
  • Electronic Construction, Mho Engineering, 1962.
  • Electronic Design and Construction, Ottawa Chemical Co., 1961.


  • M.F.A., piano, California Institute of the Arts, 1973. (Taught classes and private lessons as part of degree work.)
  • A.B., mathematics, Harvard College, 1965, cum Laude in General Studies.
  • Piano study
    • Leonid Hambro, California Institute of the Arts.
    • Aube Tzerko, Los Angeles.
    • Gregory Tucker, Longy School, Cambridge, Mass.
    • Henry Harris, George Lucktenberg, National Music Camp, Interlochen, Mich.
    • Elizabeth Gould-Hochman, Toledo.
  • Music theory study with Leonard Stein, Los Angeles, 1969-71.


Piano Teaching, Interpretive Coaching of All Instruments
James Boyk is recognized as an inspiring teacher and coach. He has taught privately since 1965, and has given more than 800 master classes at Caltech and elsewhere. His book for students and teachers of all instruments, To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us, has received the warmest reception from reviewers and performers, and has been adopted by university departments and private-studio teachers, as well as many individual musicians. Regarding Mr. Boyk's lessons and classes, the following comments are from private students and master-class participants:

  • "An unforgettable experience. Exceptional richness both as an artist and as a teacher, as well as an original approach to music and a powerful capacity to get the best out of those who work with him."
  • "Wonderfully enthusiastic and effective teacher. While ever eager to convey new and fascinating insights into a topic of discussion, he would always listen to what I had to say."
  • "His acute sensitivity to the details of a performance, their relationships to what is written down in the music, and their connection to the overall effect make him a superb coach, able to temper his comments to the performer's level of receptiveness and technical ability to put them to use...."
  • "Transformed my entire approach to the keyboard."
  • "His attention to the physicality of playing piano is far beyond anything I've experienced with other music teachers. Knows how to think outside the box and tailor lessons to get the most out of his students. Studying with him has been a tremendous inspiration to me."
  • "Lessons were a revelation. I never worked like this before. All the images, the ways of learning. A very systematic, broad view of a piece, musically and technically; you know of tools, new tools. You help in laying out the problem and finding the appropriate solution. Not in playing a hundred times the same passage, but in thinking about it...."
  • "Jim's lessons are special and memorable. He would say, 'Of course! What's the point of a lesson if you don't remember it?' If you've used his book, 'To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us,' you'll realize that the technique it describes, though laughably simple in its premise, is astonishingly effective at improving your musical...ability. If you really and truly believe in the obvious things he says, you will literally astonish yourself.... Jim's peculiar gift is that he understands that every person learns differently... an unparalleled teacher in my experience."
  • "You really need to stick a brief notice on your website to the effect that lessons with you are addicting. I can't imagine going back to the 'old style' lessons now. WARNING: Lessons with James are guaranteed to have certain serious and long-lasting side effects. Do not undertake lessons unless you are prepared for the following reactions: 1. A change in your perception of what you need to know in order to play well, 2. A strong anticipatory addiction to your next lesson, and 3. A likely inability to benefit from lessons from the majority of piano teachers in your area."


Audio Consulting for—

  • Record Companies
    • Sheffield Lab monitor chain: James Boyk recommended the monitor speakers taken to recording sessions in Russia. When Sheffield president Doug Sax returned and listened to the master tapes on his (big) regular monitors, he gave the ultimate compliment: "I didn't get any surprises."
    • Sheffield Lab recording chain: The "Passions" CD, of music for two classical guitars, used microphone preamps modified by James Boyk from a design by Peter Sutheim. Stereophile called the album "a reference standard."
    • The Mastering Lab: For a new mastering console, Doug Sax did careful listening tests of various interconnect wires, but could not find anything satisfactory. James Boyk recommended a wire; Sax auditioned it & adopted it. Hundreds or thousands of albums, including dozens which have gone gold or platinum, have passed through this wire.
    • Harmonia Mundi USA: James Boyk designed a monitor system for internationally-acclaimed producer Robina Young.

  • Equipment Manufacturers
    • Listening tests carried out in James Boyk's listening room, or in the Caltech Music Lab Auditioning Facility (under contract with Caltech).
    • Improve manufacturer's in-house listening facilities.
    • Work with engineering staff to solve technical problems uncovered by listening.
    • Work with marketing staff to plan new products.
    • (Names of clients are confidential.)

  • Individuals
    For 20 years, James Boyk designed systems for music lovers, conducting an interview using a proprietary questionnaire, then choosing a systems for the client's tastes, needs, room and budget. He no longer does this, but is available for special projects.


Recording Credits (In bold):
"Boyk's obsession with the purity of the recordings of his concerts has made him an authority on audio equipment."—Discover

  • Boyk plays Scarlatti and Beethoven 1978
    Scarlatti: Sonatas in C, K.513; d, K.9; G, K.146. Beethoven: Sonata No. 32 in C Minor, Op.111.
    Performer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr1 (Lp).
         "Record to Die For"—Stereophile

  • Boyk plays Schumann, Chopin 1980
    Schumann: "Kinderszenen," Op.15. Chopin: Fantasy in F Minor, Op.49.
    Performer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr2 (Lp).
         "Virtuoso pianist...superb recording."—Performing Arts

  • Boyk plays Prokofiev 1982
    Prokofiev: Sixth Piano Sonata, Op.82
    Performer / Co-engineer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr3 (Lp).
         "Desert-Island Disc"—The Absolute Sound

  • Chicago Symphony Winds play Mozart & Grieg 1983
    Mozart: Serenade No. 11 in E-flat Major, K.375. Greig: Four Lyric Pieces, transcr. Elliot.
    Microphone consultant
    Sheffield LAB 22 (Lp), SLS 506 (CD)
         "A sonic delight."—High Performance/Review

  • Boyk plays Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Ravel 1984
    Debussy: Reflets dans l'Eau. Stravinsky: Sonata (1924). Schoenberg: "Six Little Piano Pieces," Op.19. Ravel: Sonatine
    Performer / Co-engineer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr4 (Lp)
         "Something to cherish."—The Washington Post
         "Critic's Choice"—High Fidelity

  • Kodo: Heartbeat Drummers of Japan 1985
    Co-engineer (with Doug Sax)
    Sheffield Lab CD-KODO (CD)
         "Destined to become a classic."—Hi-Fi News & Record Review

  • Firebird: Los Angeles Philharmonic / Erich Leinsdorf 1985
    Debussy: Prélude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Stravinsky: "Firebird"
    Co-engineer (with Doug Sax)
    Sheffield LAB 24 (Lp, CD)
         "An all-time great symphonic recording."—J. Gordon Holt, Stereophile

  • The Performance Recordings Demonstration of Stereo Microphone Technique 1990
    Concept / Producer / Co-engineer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr6cd (CD).
         "The argument stopper."—Hi-Fi News & Record Review

  • Boyk plays Mussorgsky 1991
    "Pictures at an Exhibition"
    Performer / Co-engineer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr7lp (Lp), pr7cd (CD)
         "Among our reference recordings."—HiFi Magazin (Hungary)
         "The feeling of 'coming close to the vision of the composer' is strongly present."——Musik & Ljudteknik (Sweden)

  • Boyk plays 20th Century Masters 1991
    Prokofiev: Sixth Piano Sonata, Op.82. Debussy: Reflets dans l'Eau. Stravinsky: Sonata (1924). Schoenberg: "Six Little Piano Pieces," Op.19. Ravel: Sonatine.
    Performer / Co-engineer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr8cd
         "Boyk plays the very devil out of this [Prokofiev] sonata.... The piano sounds incredibly lifelike."—Stereo Review
         "Almost incredible fidelity. . . even more impressive is the integrity of the performance."—High Fidelity

  • Boyk plays Beethoven 1991
    Sonata in C Minor, Op.13, "Pathétique." Seven Bagatelles, Op.33. "Moonlight" Sonata, Op. 27/2.
    Performer / Co-engineer / Producer / Album Notes
    Performance Recordings® pr9cd

  • Mayorga plays Chopin, Brahms and Prokofiev 1992
    Chopin: 24 Préludes, Op.28; Prélude, Op.45; Prélude, Opus Posthumous. Brahms: Four Piano Pieces, Op.119. Prokofiev: Three Pieces, Op.96.
    Co-producer and Co-engineer (both with Doug Sax)
    Sheffield Lab SLS 505 (CD)

  • Passions: Music for Two Classical Guitars 1995
    Microphone preamp designed by Peter Sutheim, modified by James Boyk
    Sheffield Lab CD
         "A reference standard."—Stereophile

  • James Boyk: Tonalities of Emotion (Released March 10, 2005)
    James Boyk, Pianist in concert.
    Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903. Chopin: Fantasy-Impromptu, Opus 66. Debussy: Reflets dans l'Eau. Mozart: Sonata in A Minor, K. 310.
    Performer, producer, engineer; microphone preamp designed by Peter Sutheim, modified by James Boyk
    Performance Recordings pr10 Super-Audio CD hybrid disc
    (SACD "hybrid" is two discs in one: plays on regular CD player and with better sound on SACD player.)


Books, Papers & Articles:
(See above for links to album program notes.)

  • Books and articles in progress:
    • Ten Thousand Days: A Pianist at Caltech
    • "Steinway & Me," a personal history.
    • Duets, a novel.
    • Know Thy Piano

  • Boyk, J., To Hear Ourselves As Others Hear Us. St. Louis: MMB Music, June, 1996. ISBN 0-918812-87-9.  André Watts: "a treasure-trove... should be required reading."  Whole Earth Review: "If I were giving instrument lessons, I'd buy this thing by the case."  Yehudi Menuhin: "Excellent...valuable to both teacher and student."

  • —, "Keys to Success," New West, October 24, 1977. "Finest statement of philosophy of music education we've seen."—Yamaha International Music Education Division.

  • —, "The Perfectly Complete, Completely Perfect, Thinking Person's Guide to Stereos," New West, Sept. 11, 1978. Finalist in the National Magazine Awards of Columbia University.

  • —, "The Music Goes Round and Round and It Comes Out Here," New West, Jan. 1, 1979.

  • —, "Tuning the ill-tempered clavier" Am. J. Phys., 47(5), May 1979, pages 475-475.

  • —, "Oldies But Goodies," New West, Aug. 13, 1979.

  • —, "The Cartridge Family," New West, Oct. 22, 1979.

  • —, "The Ear of the Beholder,", New West, July 14, 1980.

  • —, "The Music Lover's Quick But Accurate Guide to Stereo," The Next Whole Earth Catalog, 2nd edition, 1981.

  • —, "The Music of Sound," guest editorial in The Audio Amateur, issue 5, 1982. Reprinted in Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), Sept. 1985.

  • —, "Rules of the Game," Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), Jan., 1983.

  • —, "Controversy I: The Digital Wars," The Absolute Sound, Summer, 1984.

  • C. Minor, M. Todorovich, J. Boyk, G. P. Moore, "A Computer-Based Keyboard Monitor for Studying Timing Performance in Pianists" in Timing and Time Perception, J. Gibbon and L. Allen, eds. Annals of New York Academy of Science 1984; 423, 651.

  • Boyk, J., "Comment," guest editorial, Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), Dec., 1984.

  • —, "Dynamic Inflection and the Beauty of Live Music," Hi-Fi News & Record Review (England), June, 1985.

  • —, "On Both Sides of the Microphone," The Audio Amateur, issue 1, 1986.

  • —, "About single, double & treble-blind testing," Hi-Fi News & Record Review, March, 1986.

  • —, "Audiences of the World, Arise!," Harvard Magazine, Nov.-Dec., 1990. Reprinted as "When The Absolute Sound Isn't" in The Absolute Sound, issue 73, 9/10/91.

  • —, 1990 vs. 1960 in Audio, The Absolute Sound, 1990.

  • —, "10 feet, 1¼ Inches," Los Angeles Times Magazine, Oct. 1, 1995.

  • —, "The Endangered Piano Technician," Scientific American, December, 1995. Reprinted in Piano & Keyboard, May-June, 1996.

  • —, "Aube Tzerko As I Knew Him," contribution to In Memoriam: Aube Tzerko, TownHall Records compact disc THCD-47. (Present only in first edition.)

  • —, "In Love With Sound, personal essay.

  • —, "There's Life Above 20 Kilohertz: A Survey of Musical-Instrument Spectra to 102.4 kHz," published in Caltech Music Lab Web site.

  • —, "Improving Your Writing Through Editing," published in Caltech Music Lab Web site.

  • —, A Musician's ABC's

  • Gerald J. Sussman, James Boyk, "Small-signal distortion in feedback amplifiers for audio." In Acrobat and Postscript formats.

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