Sara Evans and Craig Schelske: Faith and Country Music
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Sara grew up on a Missouri farm and was singing in the family band at age 5. She believed singing was her life's work. A child of divorce, she and brother Matt moved to Nashville when she was 20. She met Craig when both were working as room service waiters at the Nashville Holiday Inn. Sara knew Craig was the guy for her.
Craig was raised on a 5th-generation farm in Stayton, OR, which unfortunate financial pressures forced them to lose. Craig says this was a tough time for his family who were hard-working Americans. To reverse their misfortunes, Craig's father, brother, and he went to Alaska to fish. Within 14 months they were doing $1.2 million in the food processing business in Alaska. His father had enough money to put a down payment on a house, and they could move back home.
In 1989 Craig and his brothers formed a country music band hoping to emulate the success of the hit group Alabama. They left for Nashville in 1991 where Craig met Sara. "Sara and I have a lot in common," he says. "Like me, she is the third oldest from a family of seven children, and our grandparents, coincidentally, share the same first names."
In the summer of 1991, Sara returned to Oregon with Craig where they formed a band from 1992-95. They married while living there.
After singing in local places, the Schelskes felt it was time to go back to Nashville, especially when Willie Nelson heard Sara sing and encouraged her to go to Nashville and pursue a career. To build a music career, Nashville was the place to be. They moved there in the fall of 1995.
Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Harlan Howard (who wrote Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces") and his wife, Melanie, were quick to see Sara's potential. After she recorded one of Harlan's classic songs, "I've got a Tiger by the Tail," he urged RCA to listen to her. Sadly, Harlan died in March 2002 just as Sara was becoming the big star he believed she would be. That tugged at Sara's heart. "He really was the reason I got my record deal," she says. "I really don't know that I would be here if it weren't for him and Melanie."
Sara was the most nominated artist at the 2001 CMA Awards and took home her first award when Born to Fly won Video of the Year. She toured with superstars Alan Jackson, George Strait and Kenny Chesney. In addition she participated in the landmark "Girls Night Out" tour of 2001 with Reba McEntire and Martina McBride.
During the meteoric rise in Sara's career, the Schelske's family grew - son Avery was born in 1999, and daughter Olivia was born in January 2003.
Also during this time, Craig launched a political career in Oregon. They moved back to Oregon, and Craig made an unsuccessful bid for Congress in 2002. To those who wonder why Craig returned to run for office, he says that though he was gone a few years, all of his ancestors are buried there. Being on the road touring with Sara gave him a chance to see the faces of America. Seeing the young people made him realize that we're not descending as a nation, that we have an incredible future. It inspired his sense of patriotism and made him realize he had a role to play. Sara says Craig is like William Wallace ("Braveheart") to her, and she fully supports him. In November 2003 he and Sara were invited to attend, and Sara was asked to perform for honored guests at Vice President Dick Cheney and Lynne Cheney's residence in D.C.
Craig says that he and Sara both believe that they are the recipients of other people's blessings. "We feel that someone prayed for us," he says. Sara's great grandmother Morrison and his great grandmother Tucker prayed generationally. They believe these blessings brought Sara to the national stage. Craig has known the Lord since he was 8. When he met Sara, he was going through a challenging time in his life, knowing he was not where he should be spiritually. He told the Lord that he couldn't handle this; two weeks later he met Sara. They spent time in the Scriptures together, and Sara rededicated her life to Christ at age 20.
Craig has a heart to share about American Destiny, an organization founded by Kendall Hewitt, that is committed to restoring the heart and soul of America. Craig identifies with this message and says he likes to quote from the founding documents. "It's overwhelming when you get into the speeches," he says. Many of us Americans are cynical, having forgotten our legacy of Christian faith, and have lost hope in our future. The freedom we know is an inheritance passed down from our forefathers. The Founding Fathers openly acknowledged this gift as being from our Creator. When the truth is forgotten over generations, hope is lost as men look to other men for solutions to the overwhelming issues of our day. American Destiny is committed to reminding our generation of our past, to teaching history in such a way as to impart destiny. It is designed to make the past live again in our hearts, and give us hope and vision for the future. It is also committed to change. "Our dream and our prayer is to see America shake off her lesser self and to become the nation of God's intent and our Founders' hopes," they say.
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