Niagara Fallsview Casino – March 24
One leg at a time. That’s how everyone does it, famous or not. Described as one of the most humble individuals, radio and television host, composer and musician, John Tesh has had his own set of trials and tribulations that have given him the perseverance to become one of the most recognizable voices in the music and entertainment industry.
Homeless at a young age, Tesh quickly learned the meaning of adversity. “I was asked to leave school and my parents threw me out of the house because of that,” explains Tesh. “I was playing in rock bands and my parents insisted I would starve to death, but my deepest desire was to be a musician.”
In a trophy case in Tesh’s home sits the egg timer his mother used to regulate his piano and trumpet practising. “That was a line in the sand. I couldn’t go outside until I finished my practise,” recalls Tesh, who would turn some of the songs into rock beats to help pass the time. “My mother was a tennis player and a nurse and she knew the value of practice,” says Tesh.
Tesh was fortunate to have positive influences in his life: complementary to what he learned at home. “Mr. Wagner was my first grade music teacher,” says Tesh. “He was just one of those guys. He put me in the band and it shaped me in many different ways. Having him as a music teacher was a microcosm for life,” says Tesh.
Through reflection and playing music, Tesh has come to realize the positive impact his early experiences at home and school had on his musical endeavours. “Kids need to learn to have the discipline to practice something everyday,” says Tesh. “It is such a shame that we don’t have more music programs, especially at the young elementary level where kids need an outlet. I was tall, skinny and ghastly unpopular,” says Tesh. “Music was my only way out.”
After graduation from North Carolina University, Tesh began his career working as a journalist for CBC News, hosting and sports broadcasting a variety of high profile events. Tesh gained status in the music industry when he composed the NBA on NBC theme “Roundball Rock.”
It was always Tesh’s life long goal to be a full time musician with a record deal. “It scared me when I ended up on Entertainment Tonight and all I wanted to do was get a record deal. They didn’t think it was cool to have an entertainment guy on their label,” explains Tesh. Frustrated with the lack of support in the music business, Tesh started his own record company.
In 1995, Tesh’s moment in music finally arrived. “I bet everything on this big PBS special with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. There were 15 cameras with no guarantee from PBS that anything would come of it,” says Tesh. During the performance, mother nature gave Tesh a kick in the pants. “It started to pour. I kept playing as water was pouring out of the grand piano,” recalls Tesh. Despite the weather, the benefit concert was well received by audiences and various PBS stations aired the concert. Tesh’s hard work and diligence in the industry was finally rewarded. “We went from selling 500 records a week to selling 550,000 per week,” says Tesh. “It came a little late in life. I have never had a moment that big. It has stuck with me forever.”
“You don’t become a successful musician or anything until you are faced with extreme adversity. I have 50 letters on my wall of being turned down for record deals including one from Danny Goldberg. You think you will never get through this and you do, you come back after being beaten down,” says Tesh, who ten years later would sell his record company to Goldberg.
After a successful ten year run with the John Tesh Radio Show, Tesh, along with his wife Connie Sellecca and stepson Gib Gerard, started Intelligence for Your Life, a radio show that addresses a variety of topics targeted to audiences across North America.
Three years ago, Tesh was diagnosed with prostate cancer. “I got the diagnosis that I was between stage three and four. I am a big time researcher and I started reading everything I could find on cancer,” says Tesh. “I had surgery to remove the cancer.” After beating prostate cancer, Tesh would be diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes. “I wanted to quit and Connie wouldn’t let me. It was a family journey and now I am clear from cancer,” says Tesh.
Throughout his cancer treatment, Tesh continued to work at Intelligence for Your Life. “I did the radio show in between vomiting,” says Tesh who credits his strength to his family, especially Connie, his wife of 26 years. “She wouldn’t let me give up,” says Tesh.
Niagara residents and tourists will be enthralled with Tesh’s musical talent in his show “Grand Piano Live” at the Fallsview Casino. “This is a different show for us. Having sat in orchestras for several years with the big sound, my wife Connie said, ‘Why do you need all of this, just go and play the piano,’” says Tesh. Tesh has gone from playing in a venue that seats 6000 to an intimate theatre with an audience of 500. “We heavily involve the audience,” says Tesh. “It is less formal than what people are used to.” Through the use of images projected on a screen, Tesh takes the audience through a memorable night of sight and sound. “I put this show together to take people on a history lesson of my life’s journey. So much has happened to me, so many great things and some life challenges,” says Tesh.
Tesh attributes his success to discipline, perseverance and the unwillingness to allow anyone to steer him out of “his lane,” advice he gives willingly to people trying to reach their goals. “Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote ‘In the Heights’ and ‘Hamilton’ said in an interview on 60 Minutes that he picked a lane, theatre, and that was all he wanted to do. He didn’t let anything persuade him or let anyone pull him out of his lane,” says Tesh.
Tesh and his family reside in Los Angeles, California. “All production is done on our property and my grandkids are always playing around here,” says Tesh. “Being a good parent and grandparent is number one on my list.”
With an impressive list of accolades that includes: six Emmys, two Grammy nominations, three gold records, eight million records sold, and over 20 million dollars raised for public television there is still more to come from Tesh. He is currently writing a book called “Perseverance” for Publisher HarperCollins.
The familiar saying, “Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes,” holds true to Tesh’s show. Audience members will be astonished with the journey that Tesh took to get to here. “I always say at the end of the concert you will feel a lot better about yourself,” concludes Tesh. For more information visit www.tesh.com.