David Claus has woken up a lot of people while painting. Not because he’s a loud painter, but because he’s a singing painter.
His voice is deep and booming as he belts out, ‘Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day…’
Whether it’s interior or exterior spaces, it doesn’t matter, David sings when he’s on the job, and he’s been doing it this way for nearly 30 years.
He doesn’t advertise his services or carry around a business card, because being a singing painter definitely gets him noticed. He’s a character with connections and he does all of his work by word-of-mouth, but David became the singing painter in a pretty roundabout way.
In college, all David really wanted to do was sing. He went to school at Nebraska Wesleyan and started out in the music department, but ended up with a business degree after his music professors wanted him to learn to play the piano.
“I didn’t like that,” he said, describing his confusion with cords and scrunching his face in a look of played-up disgust.
After college, David tried his hand at real estate and the railroad before joining the Peace Corps in Malaysia.
As a Peace Corps intern David’s official job was to be a business advisor at the local farmers cooperative, but he said he spent most of his time entertaining the locals. He sang, danced and animated his way into the hearts of the people he worked with for two and a half years.
But when he got back to the states he was a Malay-speaking kid with 39 cents in his pocket and no idea what to do next.
So, David went back to school for a little while. He worked as a bartender, partied a little more than he should have, and then got involved in the theatre scene in Lincoln.
David rattled off the names of various actor friends who he was in plays with as well as a few famous people he met along the way, like Gordon McRae, best known for his role in Oklahoma! and Carousel.
At the mention of Gordon, David started in again… ‘There’s a bright golden haze on that meadow…’
He explained how during one of his performances he met Gordon and his wife and they offered him a job as Gordon’s traveling companion. David traveled with Gordon to Chicago, Pittsburg, California and Miami and met all sorts of famous actors.
Shortly after Gordon died, David ended up in California where his brother was flipping houses. He started painting with his brother and trying to get acting gigs, and eventually realized he was doing more painting than acting so he moved back to Lincoln.
He continued painting and returned to the acting community, and for a while things settled down for David. He met his wife – who he met when she needed her apartment painted – got married and they had a baby girl who they named Melody – yes, the name was intentional.
At this point David was the singing painter without the official title. He sang while he worked as a way to rehearse for whatever production he had coming up, and people loved his unique spin on the job.
Before long, David said people started referring to him as the singing painter and he started to book official gigs at weddings, funerals and nearly every Husker sporting event.
David never imagined actually making a living as a singing painter, but after nearly 30 years that’s what he’s done.
But it’s more than the singing and the painting that seem to draw in customers, it’s his goofy smile and comical laugh. David is kind of like a cartoon character who you can’t help but like, and that’s the point.
“I’m a one-man show,” he said with a smirk. “If I can’t make you my friend by the time I’m done working with you, well that’s your loss. Some people just want the paint job…silly them.”
That’s the thing about David, he’s himself 100 percent of the time – his goofy, loud, silly, entertainer self who just wants to be a part of everyone’s story. He doesn’t care if his boisterous singing catches people off guard, it’s who he is and it’s what he does.
David’s story is about finding a way to mesh his hobby with his work, being true to himself and injecting joy into everything he does, because that’s what the Singing Painter does best.
Photo courtesy of The TADA Theatre.