Recent alumnus and award-winning opera singer David Castillo '10 makes national television debut on “America’s Got Talent”

Recent alumnus and award-winning opera singer David Castillo '10 makes national television debut on “America’s Got Talent”

Loyola University New Orleans celebrates the national television debut of award-winning opera singer and recent alumnus David Castillo, who performed Tuesday on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” as part of the newly formed vocal quartet Vox. The classically trained opera singers walked away with critical acclaim and four yes’s from judges ─ and will appear again on the show later this summer.

“David is a fantastic young singer. We are so proud of him and his accomplishments. He’s got the full package. He’s nice, talented, smart, and good looking. In this profession, all of these things come into play and he has everything. He was also greatly beloved by Philip Frohnmayer. Phil thought the world of him,” said Meg Frazier, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at Loyola.

Castillo, a New Orleans native and Filipino-American baritone, graduated from Loyola with a bachelor’s degree in music performance in 2010. Last month, he and three friends from his school days ─ Arnold Geis, Kevin Blickfeldt and DeMar Neal ─ formed an all-male opera group with the intent of shaking up AGT auditions. The Latin word for “voice” became the name of their group.

Tuesday, the 20-somethings appeared onstage in Hollywood casually dressed as if going out to a club ─ then stunned longtime AGT judges (comedian Howie Mandel, radio host Howard Stern, supermodel Heidi Klum and award-winning singer and former Spice Girl Mel B) with an operatic performance of an arrangement of “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s "Turandot."

Among their goals was “to make this art form as accessible as possible,” Castillo said Wednesday. That they did, bringing audience members to their feet in resounding applause and earning accolades from the judges.

“I would hope that, at home, they felt the power that we felt in this room,” comedian and AGT judge Howie Mandel said. “I think people will come to think of you as the classiest boy band there is.”

End to end, the experience was “nerve-wracking and exhilarating,” Castillo said Wednesday. Now in its 10th season, "America's Got Talent" is NBC’s top-rated summer series from producer Simon Cowell’s Syco Television and FremantleMedia North America.

“This is national/international exposure ... I wanted to do NOLA proud,” Castillo said, describing tension before auditions. “We were waiting in a room with other incredible and different acts. We were all nervous, but we could not think about everyone else. We knew that we had to play to our strengths and do what we do best,” he added.

“Afterwards, adrenaline ran very high. We were so charged and excited that the performance went incredibly well. The entire Dolby Theatre in Hollywood was packed and we received a full, enthusiastic standing ovation. We couldn't have asked for a better experience. It was surreal. Family and friends flooded my phone afterwards with love and support. I'm still on cloud nine.”

The vocal group is already gearing up for their next performance ─ and leaving nothing to chance.

“Vox is making sure that we are at 150 percent,” Castillo said Wednesday. “Hydrating, keeping in shape, practicing, rehearsing, and strategizing. We need to make sure that we have the best selection and presentation for the judges. We can't leave any room for error in this competition. This is such a major opportunity that has been presented to us, and we need to dedicate everything to this.”

While at Loyola, David studied voice under the late Philip Frohnmayer, a singer and professor who launched a number of operatic careers. Castillo also made his operatic debut as Sargeant Belcore in Donizetti's "Elixir of Love" with Loyola Opera.

In the five years since graduation, Castillo has performed world premieres, West Coast premieres, and leading baritone roles with major companies such as Los Angeles Opera, New Orleans Opera, Los Angeles Master Chorale, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Green Mountain Opera Festival, Aspen Opera Theatre, Le Salon de Musiques, The Industry, USC Thornton Opera, and other major opera companies and orchestras.

His 2015-16 season consists of a world premiere in The Industry's production of "Hopscotch" and another world premiere of a work by Jeffrey Parola, his European debut performing "Winterreise" with Francois Chouchan at the Mairie du Troisieme Arrondissement in Paris, Anthony Hope in "Sweeney Todd" with Townsend Opera and Fresno Grand Opera, and his return to Le Salon de Musiques at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Castillo has been honored as the 2010 Grand Prize Winner of the Steward Brady Competition, a 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Finalist, a 2010 National Finalist in Classical Singer’s University Competition, the 2013 Runner-up and 2012 Encouragement Award Recipient from the Palm Springs Opera Guild Competition, and a recipient of multiple Opera Buffs, Inc. grants. Castillo is currently based in Los Angeles.

“Loyola was one of the best experiences for me. It's where I discovered my purpose and had the faculty and support to nurture my talents,” Castillo said. “Loyola has one of the best faculties and learning situations for a student. It's a smaller school which provides a more intimate learning environment.

“The faculty knows each and every student in the program. I think this is very important for a young musician because it allows everyone to receive the attention that they need to become a solid, grounded artist. Also, the faculty is highly respected in the classical music world. Not only do they have strong reputations as professionals in the field, but they also know how to teach what has made them so successful. I cannot have asked for a better environment in which to complete my undergraduate studies.”

All-male vocal opera group Vox rocked the stage Tuesday on America's Got Talent. (Seen here from left to right: DeMar Neal, Kevin Blickfeldt, David Castillo and Arnold Geis. Photo courtesy of Vox.)

To see Vox perform in AGT auditions, click here.

To learn more about David Castillo, click here.

To learn more about Vox, click here.

To learn more about Loyola’s music program, click here.

To learn more about America’s Got Talent, click here.