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Unleash a Life of Purpose, Grit, and Faith

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Growing up, John was a self-proclaimed school “band geek” who played trumpet in marching and jazz bands in junior high and high school. He was proficient on the trumpet and piano from the age of six and studied privately with classical and jazz instructors in NY and was named to the New York State Symphonic Orchestra in high school. His mom was a surgical nurse and his dad was a strict WWII veteran who was also the vice president of Hanes Corporation in Winston Salem North Carolina. He was raised in the Methodist church, but at home there was dysfunction. His dad struggled with out of control drinking and loud arguments with his sisters that often led to physical abuse. John’s dad decided he would work in the Hanes Manufacturing plant in North Carolina during the summer and attend North Carolina State as a Textile Chemistry major. John struggled with depression as he was forced to pursue a degree that was not his passion. For two and a half years he suffered through the textile chemistry program. John was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His grades were in a downward spiral and he was drinking too much to mute his pain. His low grades were putting him at risk for getting kicked off the soccer team so he and a friend decided to pick up Radio and Television 101 because it was supposed to be an easy A. He quickly fell in love with the class and decided to drop his textile classes and pursue a Communications curriculum. Unfortunately, his statistics professor refused to sign the drop form because John was a week beyond the deadline and it went against university policy. Since it was a large class with over a hundred students John decided to sign his professor’s name to the drop form. The professor found out about the forgery and filed a complaint against John. The university gave him an F in the class for violating the honor code at the university and he was suspended indefinitely. John’s dad said he had shamed the family and told him he was no longer welcome in his home (John and his dad later reconciled).

John became homeless and slept out of a pup tent at Umstead Park. He began working in construction breaking concrete. At night, John would try to visualize his future as a broadcaster. He reached out to a friend who ran the college radio station and asked to create a demo tape. John sent off the tape and a few weeks later, with no experience, was hired as the weekend newscaster on WKIX Radio. Finally, John had found purpose, passion and direction. Each night before he would drift off to sleep he would recite the Lord’s prayer and verbalize his future. He would say, “Five years from today I’m sitting at an anchor desk in New York City reporting the Nightly News.

John quickly moved into larger markets breaking into a top-ten news market in New York at twenty-four years old. He was also the broadcast host and composer for the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympic Games and created the iconic theme song for NBC Sports basketball. In 1986, John became the co-host of Entertainment Tonight. A job that would last for a decade. At Entertainment Tonight John was blessed with a schedule that allowed him to leave around 1:00 p.m. each day. He would rush home and work on his music in his home recording studio. As his dream of becoming a professional musician grew he knew he would need a unique and powerful way to leave his talking head job.

As a kid John often visualized himself in live musical performances at a grand piano with an orchestra playing his original compositions. “I went to bed every night wrapped in this recurring dream,” shares John. But it was after he read a book by Ken Kragen called Life is a Contact Sport that John’s dream of becoming a concert pianist began to materialize. He wanted to do an epic concert event that would combine his music, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Olympic gymnasts Bart Conner and Nadia Commaneci, and David Michaels and his production team. The budget for the special was $800.000. Connie and John took an enormous risk by investing their own money in the idea they brainstormed called John Tesh: Live at Red Rocks with the Colorado Symphony and it paid off. In August 1994, John performed to an audience of 9,000 people in the pouring rain. John’s live television concerts, including the Live at Red Rocks, have raised millions of dollars for Public Television and opened the door for John as an independent producer/artist to become an outlier in both the public television universe and the recording industry.

In 2015, John received a serious stage 3 cancer diagnosis. His doctor told him to “get his affairs in order.” His aggressive form of prostate cancer would lead to two surgeries, chemotherapy, and Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT). When the doctors suspected the cancer had returned two years later in the lymph nodes John and Connie had a decision to make: follow the aggressive radiation treatment plan the doctors presented (37 treatments over a seven-week period) or stand firm in their faith on the scripture’s promise for healing. Instead of treatments John and Connie chose to cling to divine healing scriptures to manifest a victory over the disease.

When John was initially diagnosed with cancer he had faith in the doctors and surgeons and the treatment plans they had put together. Once he began to understand healing according to the scriptures and through the teaching of Andrew Womack he and Connie learned to pray differently. Connie, Gib (John’s son), and John have a portion of the scripture tattooed on their bodies: For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.  

John is thankful his family who stood by his side during his struggle with cancer. Today he gets to perform with them all over North America on the concert stage doing approximately 30 shows a year. Gib playing music and performing comedy; Prima dancing jazz and modern; and Connie as producer and director who turns it into a PBS event. “I cherish the times when we work on a project together as a family. It’s a powerful combination of creativity and purpose. And whether it’s cancer or a tsunami, my family are warriors. And when a family member is in trouble, we are in the fight together,” shares John. In 1997, John and Connie created the nationally syndicated radio show Intelligence for Your Life (IFYL) which has been hugely successful. Today it airs on 350 stations and reaches 14 million people each week.

In 2004 an earthquake struck beneath the Indian Ocean near Indonesia. The tsunami that resulted claimed the lives of more than 230,000 lives in fourteen different countries. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded. John and Connie wanted to help. Bill Horn, CCO of Operation Blessing, called and asked if they would go with their shipment of supplies and relief crew being sent so they could raise awareness on IFYL and the listeners could get involved with the fundraising for supplies and medical aid. John and Connie agreed to go. After the trip they published a book to help raise money $336,000 for the Tsunami Children’s Relief Project. They money was used to build hundreds of fishing boats to replace those that had been destroyed.

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The 700

The 700 Club is a live television program that airs each weekday. It is produced before a studio audience at the broadcast facilities of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in Virginia Beach, Virginia. On the air continuously since 1966, it is one of the longest-running programs in broadcast history. The program is hosted by Pat Robertson, Terry Meeuwsen, and Gordon Robertson, with news anchor John Jessup. The 700 Club is a mix of news and commentary, interviews, feature stories, and Christian ministry. The 700 Club can be seen in 96 percent of the homes in the U.S. and is carried on