When David Whalen played his original song "With Me Now" on stage during the New York Music and Talent Showcase July 18 at Tammany Hall, his wife, Ann Marie, was at his side.
"She changed my life over the last year and a half," he said during a recent phone interview.
When he told the crowd the song was about her, they started chanting her name, and she joined him on stage.
Whalen earned an award for best live performance and wowed showcase organizer Yusaf Harris.
"(David) is a trouper," Harris said. "He supported everyone, and when it was his time to get up on stage and perform, you would think he had a 17-piece band."
It was just David and his guitar. The showcase featured hip-hop, pop and other genres, but Whalen's Americana rock made an impression
"It was incredible," he said. "I felt I had a good set. I've been playing music for a long time, but I hung it up. When Annie and I got back together, she pushed me into music."
When David was 10, an uncle taught him a few guitar chords. That was enough to get him hooked.
He formed a three-piece band and started learning more from area musicians.
In middle school and at Hempfield High School, David sat near Ann in homeroom. She turned him down when he asked her to be his girlfriend. They remained friendly, but after graduation went in separate directions.
David played with bands in York and Lancaster counties during the 1980s. Then, he put his music on hold while he went to college, earned a mechanical engineering degree and pursued a career in that field.
Ann went into the service, married a man she met while stationed in Germany and then moved to Alaska for several years. After she split from her husband, she made her way back to southcentral Pennsylvania in recent years.
Last year, she and David reconnected on Facebook. They decided to meet at a park in Wrightsville on April 11, 2012.
"We never looked back," David said.
They married April 11 this year and settled in Wrightsville. Ann got David excited about music again. While on a trip to Hersheypark, she persuaded him to sing in the park's Studio H attraction.
After that, he began to build a studio in his house and write music.
"I tell everything that without (Ann) I wouldn't have written these songs," he said. One of the tunes, "After All These Years," is about how they found each other again.
David is putting his construction and design company on hold while he pursues a music career. He's booked gigs at area bars and got advice from York Fair organizers about the entertainment business. He and Ann sent some songs to Frank Munoz Management, based in Las Vegas, which Harris has ties to. They got an invitation to the New York showcase.
"He has an amazing body of work of his own solo material," Harris said of David. "He has a little bit of pop, rock and country. We have big plans for him."
Harris added that he's organizing a show for David in Las Vegas soon.
In the meantime, David said he's working on writing more "music with heart" and hopes to record an album in a professional studio - with Ann by his side for inspiration, of course.
- ERIN McCRACKEN,
David Whalen: davidwhalenmusic.com
More meet-the-artist interviews: flipsidepa.com/musicdirectory