Broadway star David Gaschen headlined a Soundings event Jan 28, thanks to Castleton’s own Richard and Jessica Cowden.
As Fine Arts Center director and Soundings coordinator, respectively, the Cowdens want to change the image of the Soundings program and its relationship with Castleton students, as well as bring higher-profile artists to campus.
Gaschen, a friend of the Cowdens, has played the title character in “The Phantom of Opera” more than 1,300 times worldwide. Last Thursday, he spent the day at Castleton offering Lunchbag Soundings Series event, a musical theatre master class and a personal concert as the evening’s Soundings event.
“It made perfect sense to reach out to David. As somebody who has stood at the very top of his field, having played the Phantom on Broadway for over six years, it also gives us an opportunity,” Rich Cowden said.
The Lunchbag Soundings series gave students the chance to talk to Gaschen about what it takes to reach such a level of success.
The master class, which was instructed by Gaschen’s talented Broadway accompanist James, allowed students to get up on stage and sing a polished musical number and receive professional feedback.
“It was individualized and he was so kind about it, but he was still polite enough that we understood exactly what we needed to change, and then he gave everyone another chance and it was so much better. It was just so helpful and he was so awesome,” Theatre Major Alexa Fryover said.
At the Soundings event later that night, Gaschen performed a concert including selections from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables” and “On the Town.”
“The concert was magical,” said student Kourtney Stratton in the buzzing lobby after the performance.
The Cowdens moved to Castleton two years ago, and in that time, they have gotten to know the Soundings program and its students quite well. They also became familiar with the reputation the program has among students.
“Every current Soundings student I talk to regards Soundings like a hoop to jump through – an obstacle to doing what they really wanted to do with their time,” Jessica Cowden said.
So the Cowdens say they are committed to providing a solid learning opportunity by presenting a wide variety of Soundings events, while making the events as accessible and fun as possible.
Gaschen is just one example of this commitment.
Jessica said she aims to “find a way to drive home to the students that college is about finding your voice, your passion, your path forward in this world.” Gaschen is an example of what happens when someone is dedicated to the pursuit of a specific goal.
The Cowdens first met Gaschen at a benefit concert in Grand Junction, Colorado. Having lived there for many years, Rich was the head of theatre at Colorado Mesa University.
“He was there on behalf of a mutual friend, Bob Sammons, a psychiatrist by trade and BBQ national champion by avocation,” he said.
Sammons also happened to be a huge “stage door Johnny” at Broadway shows, which means he would wait outside the stage door to get autographs from stars after a Broadway production. He met Gaschen outside the stage door one night and became his friend. The Cowdens soon joined the mutual friendship and stayed in touch over the years.
Gaschen is just one of many in the Cowdens’ extensive network of friends and colleagues, who are all well versed in the world of the fine and performing arts and have reached a high level of success.
“It’s our mission to leverage these relationships into opportunities for Castleton folk and the community at large to be able to watch, interact with, and learn from A-list people right here in our little corner of the world,” Rich Cowden said.