James D. Gish has learned that when opportunity knocks, one must find a way to go through the door, even if there are obstacles.
The 21-year-old singer plans three free concerts at area libraries, including Jan. 19 at Summerlin Library.
Gish was born in Las Vegas. His parents, Jim and Tina, moved the family 100 miles southeast to Bullhead City, Arizona, when he was 11.
In high school, he said, he wanted to be “one of the cool jocks who got the girls.” Turned out, he wasn’t blessed with athletic ability. A friend heard him sing along to the radio and suggested he go out for choir. It proved a perfect fit.
“I fell in love with it, with doing my first musical, with being on stage,” he recalled.
In Gish’s sophomore year, his friend Caleb was diagnosed with leukemia. Caleb’s family started a blog called “Climbing the Mountain” to provide updates. Gish and some friends formed an a cappella quartet that performed at fundraisers for Caleb. Videos of those performances were seen on the blog.
“We got offers to perform at all kinds of events,” Gish said. “We did a Candlelighters event in Las Vegas; we did several memorial services for those who did not beat their cancer. It left a deep mark on me. I saw how music could affect someone’s life for the better.”
His first professional gig was at the Hale Center Theatre in Gilbert, Arizona, playing young Ebeneezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”
“I was over the moon,” he said. “It was my first professional show. Every time they used the lights, the fog, I was awestruck.”
Then he joined Union Theater in Phoenix, where he did “Newsies” in 2017. Other notable roles: Billy Crocker in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” the phantom in “Phantom of the Opera,” “The Toxic Avenger,” “Forever Plaid,” “My Fair Lady,” “Shrek: The Musical” and “A Christmas Carol.” Gish earned a degree in business in three years at Arizona State University, all while performing professionally with Union Theater.
Gish moved to Florida, where he forged a path as a solo singer. He sings many genres — jazz, swing, classical and pop — and likes classical crossover music best.
Just as the blog for the now-recovered Caleb had brought the a cappella group attention, an Instagram posting of Gish singing solo gained notice.
Ramin Karimloo, one of the stars in “Phantom,” saw it and messaged him. They “talked” shop online for two hours.
“I was blown away that he contacted me. I mean, I grew up listening to this man’s voice,” Gish said.
Gish came to the attention of the Colorado River Concert Association and was asked to participate in its next event. The lead singer turned out to be a record producer from Nashville, Tennessee, who performs once a year but spends the rest of his time working in the studio. That meeting led to Gish signing with DW Music in Nashville. The result was his first album, “So In Love.”
“Opportunity knocks in a way you might not expect it,” he said. “I learned that if any kind of door or window opens, you’ve got to go through it.”
He drove to Las Vegas to see Susan Anton, an artist he admires, at The Smith Center. They met afterward, and she gave him career advice.
A year later, they reconnected, and now Anton will be part of his show Jan. 19.
“When I grew up, my mom and dad always had the radio on playing artists like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett,” Anton said. “When I heard James’ voice, he reminded me of those great singers.”
Anton plans to join Gish onstage for one song: Marvin Hamlisch’s and Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”
Gish’s dream venue: Royal Albert Hall in the London area. All he needs is for one more door to open.
Visit lvccld.org/events or call 702-507-3863.
Contact Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2949.
If you go
What: Jamdes D. Gish performance
Where: Summerlin Library, 1771 Inner Circle
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19
1771 Inner Circle