She has been touted as the next Hayley Westenra, but Kapiti Coast singer Toni Gibson would much rather be the next Sarah Brightman.
At just 20, the classical crossover singer is already halfway to achieving her goal – the song Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera is one of the tracks on her debut album, Echo in my Soul, which has been picked up by an overseas label after a lack of interest from local record companies.
So far, singing with Bryan White (who performed the duet From This Moment On with Shania Twain) has been a highlight of her career.
“It was amazing. A great experience,” says Toni.
“I’m very lucky. I want to have a similar career to Sarah Brightman, doing concerts, selling albums and performing at the West End. I really want to play Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.”
Ironically, Toni may have her own phantom – if some women who have seen her perform can be believed.
On two separate occasions, a ghostly vision was spotted standing beside Toni as she sang How Can I Keep From Singing?
The first time was at an SPCA fundraiser. A woman from the audience approached Toni and told her that she could see a vision of a woman wearing an old-fashioned gown beside her as she sung.
Two months later, at a performance in Wellington, another woman told Toni about the same vision – during the same song.
“She explained it to me exactly the same way – the woman had dark hair and was beside me.
“The first time I got told about it, the lady didn’t sound familiar to me. I was neutral, but didn’t dismiss it. Then, when I got told the second time, I was thinking maybe there’s something to this,” says Toni, who believes she has a strong sixth sense.
“I’ve had reasons to believe so,” she says. “Sometimes I feel things around me.”
One thing is for certain, Toni has always had a passion for performing. She asked her parents for singing lessons at the age of seven.
“The first song I sung was Castle on a Cloud from Les Misérables. I went home and sang it to my parents and they were like, ‘Oh, you can sing.’”
As Toni’s talent developed, her parents approached music promoter Gray Bartlett, who was touring with Hayley Westenra at the time. They asked him to represent Toni,
but she was only 11. He advised them that she was too young and to come back in a few years.
That same year, Toni won the Coastlands Top 20 competition. Her prize included distribution of her first EP CD, for which she recorded one of Charlotte Church’s songs, the
Simon & Garfunkel hit Bridge Over Troubled Water and the New Zealand national anthem.
Now, Gray says the former child prodigy has as much potential as Hayley to forge a successful career.
“There’s no question about that,” says Gray.
After Echo in my Soul was released, Toni was booked to appear at music festivals in Europe by promoters who watched her video clips on the internet.
She was also scheduled to support Andrea Bocelli in Asia, but his tour there has been delayed.
Toni currently lives with her boyfriend on the Kapiti Coast, while she concentrates on breaking into the music industry under the same record label as K.D. Lang and Olivia Newton-John.
“I’ve always had a passion for martial arts and I love bike rides,” says Toni. “But right now, my life revolves around the album.”
Toni may seem mysterious and delicate, but looks can be deceiving – she holds a blue belt in tae kwon do.