Using his Voice to Ring the Bell of Remembrance
Out of all the places David Gaschen has traveled and lived, he is proud to call Frisco his home. He’s been the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Weber’s The Phantom of the Opera starting at the age of 26, making him the youngest to play the Phantom in the musical’s history. Since then, he’s made and produced CDs, holds concerts, and runs a thriving voice studio out of his home. He’s happy to see the Frisco arts scene explode and even happier to pass along the joy of musical theater to a younger generation.
David’s musical journey started at 19 years old. He was in New York City for a cousin’s wedding. His parents took him to see The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. At the time, he was a business major, but one musical changed the course of his life forever. After the curtains closed, he told his parents he needed to be the main role. His parents had different reactions. His mother, ever the practical one, told him there were other people much taller and much better-looking who would be better fitted for the role. His father, however, told him if he wanted it, he needed to give it his all. And that’s exactly what David set out to do.
He graduated from Texas Tech University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts in 1993 with a degree in vocal performance. He then moved to Chicago, where he would star in more than 20 musical plays. Within a few years, he was auditioning in Switzerland as the alternate for the Phantom in the original Swiss production in Basel. At the time, he was just weeks away from marrying the love of his life, Jeanne, so if he didn’t get the part, he considered himself a winner still. But he did get the part, which would begin his years-long journey playing the Phantom.
After two years in Switzerland, David played the Phantom for two years in Hamburg, Germany. He made endless memories during his time in Europe and considers himself the most blessed man in the world because of it. His new wife was right along with him on the journey. They were young, traveling Europe, taking in breathtaking views, entertaining friends, and loving every minute of it. All the while, David continued to make the role of the Phantom his own, acting and singing as the character more than 1,000 times in Europe. After a whirlwind four years, the couple moved to New York City in 1999. David arrived without a job or a plan, but within three days, he auditioned for the Phantom role on Broadway and got it. It was almost 10 years to the day of him seeing the play for the first time as a teenager. His mother, unfortunately, had passed away, but David knew she had the best seat in the house.
David and his wife lived in Brooklyn for a few years but eventually settled in Frisco in 2006 to raise their family. They have no regrets about that decision. They were able to put their two kids, now teenagers, in one of the best school systems in the state. They were also the perfect distance to the major cities and airports in North Texas.
David never intended to start a voice studio. To raise money for a friend who lost her husband, he started auctioning off voice lessons. After a few successful lessons, he realized he could do this as a class. He started a voice studio out of his own house, and it took off. At first, he had two to three students a month. Within months, the numbers grew, and just by word of mouth alone. Currently, David has 60 students in his class, with 20 more on the waiting list.
One important lesson David teaches his male students goes beyond the range of a voice. Growing up as a boy who loved to sing, he felt a stigma behind male singers. Singing was seen as something girls did, while skills on the football or baseball field are what defined a man. David teaches the young men in his class that singing is not only a healthy outlet and really satisfying, but also unleashing your creative side is imperative for proper brain development.
The popularity of David’s voice studio proves that Frisco is not just a booming sports hub; it’s a city of arts, as well. The passion he sees in his young students shows that the arts scene will continue thrive in the years to come. Sure, there is always going to be hype over the Cowboys and high school football (this is Texas after all), but there is a growing admiration for music and theater in Frisco. With the addition of the new entertainment venue, Music City, the exposure residents have to music, plays and visual arts will only increase.
David plays his own role in the thriving arts community. He recorded two solo CDs and a Christmas CD. He is the artist in residence at Stonebriar Community Church. He goes to high schools to teach master classes. He also does pro bono concert work. He encourages his audiences to support the Frisco Arts Association because you can’t just have a city of financial institutions and sports venues; you need to have art. The real culture of a city is born in art.
David says his concerts are a chance to take his audience on a trip away from the stress of reality. He says the crowd is always surprised by the variety of the music he plays. He’ll perform musical theater, but he’ll also throw in some pop songs and big band. He’ll also weave stories in between. He believes that if he keeps someone who usually hates musical theater entertained, then the night is a success. And if he can help his audience forget the chaos of the world for just an hour and a half, then he can go home knowing he did a job well done. His goal is to help them ring the bell of remembrance.
To David and many other artists, each song is a story. It is a story from the songwriter that tells a specific narrative. As a singer, it is his job to tell that story and to tell it well. If it is told well, the audience will remember something about their own life through the music, whether that something be sweet, funny or painful. There is something about the sung word that hits directly to the soul, and David knows that better than anyone.