Songwriter takes dreams to the stage in new Father’s Day musical

I’ve always been drawn to dreamers. I marvel at men and women who aren’t afraid to chase big, scary, what-if-this-crashes-and-burns dreams.

They take chances. They see things no one else does with their creative eyes. And, sometimes, they even hear music.

Nate Gagon is that kind of dreamer. The 33-year-old Utah native has been composing melodies and lyrics between his ears for so long, he can’t remember a time that music didn’t provide a comforting daily soundtrack.

He named his first original tune “No Empty Chairs,” and at 7 p.m. on June 19 at Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah, he hopes the song proves prescient.

Gagon has penned “A Father’s Day” — an original musical that will kick off the holiday weekend. Like a dream that never stops singing, the project is a lifetime in the making and combines his passion for music with a deep desire to honor fatherhood and families.

The pop production presents the journey of fictional characters Matthew and Amy Harper as they ride the roller coaster of marriage and parenthood.

“This is a story about family, told from a father’s perspective,” Gagon said during a recent interview between rehearsals. “The story begins in the future with the older version of our main character, Matthew, talking with his 7-year-old grandson, Graham, on Father’s Day. When the boy asks what happened the first time he met Grandma, Matthew tells him, ‘It started like just another morning,’ and the stage bursts into color and movement as we’re taken back to the day our lead couple first met.”

The cast of "A Father's Day" rehearses for opening night at Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah.

The cast of “A Father’s Day” rehearses for opening night at Cottonwood High School in Murray, Utah.

The show features 25 original songs and a mostly professional cast pulled together by Gagon and several Salt Lake-based talent agents.

Gagon can’t discuss any piece of the production without getting personal. “As a result of experience, I understand that marriage and family is no picnic or fairy tale and I’ve tried to reflect this in the music. Being a dad means that there will never be anything you take greater pride in than being a good father. I think the ultimate goal of parenting is to nurture in your children the healthy self-confidence they will need to reach their potential in life, whatever that potential is. I think only a love as powerful as that of parent for child can motivate a person to become as selfless as being a parent, or at least a good parent, requires you to become.”

While “A Father’s Day” certainly qualifies as his most ambitious project, Gagon is hardly a novice. In 2005, he took vocal lessons from renowned coach Dean Kaelin, the Utah-based teacher known for his work with David Archuleta and many others. In 2006, Gagon produced an album under the stage name Chase Isaac and collaborated with the likes of Alex Boye, David Osmond, Katherine Nelson and Jessie Funk.

He admires many artists, but perhaps none more than Michael McLean, creator and star of “The Forgotten Carols,” the holiday musical that’s become an annual tradition in the west. McLean was one of the first Gagon reached out to for advice and mentoring. “Michael gave me phenomenal counsel. Who better to help me take my love of songwriting and storytelling from my head to the stage?”

McLean plans to attend a dress rehearsal and offer as much support as possible to the large cast and crew. Naturally, like “The Forgotten Carols,” Gagon dreams of an annual tradition anchored to one of his favorite days of the year.

Nate Gagon, creator of "A Father's Day."

Nate Gagon, creator of “A Father’s Day.”

“We’re proud of our message,” Gagon adds. “We believe that love is the most valuable resource we have, and when it comes to generating love in the world, there is no mechanism that compares to the family. It’s impossible to fully comprehend how much love would be lost in the world if the family unit became extinct. There is nothing more important that promoting families.”

With less than a month to go until the curtain rises, Gagon and his large family are consumed with every detail. “Of course, we’d love to fill Cottonwood High School and make this an annual tradition. In more ways than one, we’ve invested everything into this. But it’s not about dollars and budgets, it’s about inspiring people to think of Dad a little differently. It’s about memories. And it’s all about neighbors coming together to celebrate what makes our community great — families.”

In the frantic countdown as they rumble and rush toward their inaugural performance, Gagon continues to hear music in his head. He likes to imagine the moment his dreams become reality on stage and the instant his cast, crew and audience members steal a loving glance at their own dads.

As that first song foretold, Nate Gagon can only hope for “No Empty Chairs.” And, while he’s at it, no empty hearts.

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