December 19th, 2003 was an infamous ghost of Christmas Past for the Joseph Tenney family, and let me tell you why:
Anyone who really knows my dad, knows that he's a dreamer. He's a can-do person, a don't-take-no-for-an-answer kind of guy. He's the epitome of an American Patriot - and has the entrepreneurial heart of a true believer in capitalism. He's passionate about everything he does. And I do mean everything.
Well, the down side is that sometimes the greater you are, the harder you fall.
Around 1996, my father and mother lost their business - a very successful CADD systems company that he partnered with his nephew. The company bit the dust in a way that took our family down with it. We lost everything & had to sell our beautiful dream home with a large yard, swimming pool, and basketball court...the place that was meant to be where my parents would settle & raise their family. That's when we moved to Lindsay & Ray and rented for a year. During these hard times people were very kind to us and we were the recipients of Secret Santa gifts showered with love. The memories of opening the door & seeing all the presents on the doorstep still makes me cry. Even though my parents were able to sell their home, they felt like they LOST their home. A year later we had to move because the home-owner moved back, so we moved to Gail Street - fortunately in the same neighborhood and continued to rent for a long time. My father was able to obtain what seemed like a successful enough job with Cox Communications. He was a good salesman and earned commissions. But unfortunately, there came a time when his particular division of the company made changes and someone within wouldn't honor the contract, and chose not to pay my father commissions for the deals he closed. So now he was unemployed again, but this time had no house to sell, a year's worth of commissions that were no longer coming in, and he had 5 children to feed. The dark days were getting darker. He took any and every job he could - but they were the kinds of jobs that couldn't feed the family of 7. He never gave up even when he was down, and one of his endeavors in this dark time was to build up his music business to try to provide for the family. He was getting contracts with big name artists, he was meeting up-and-coming artists, and my dad was a BELIEVER. He knew that if he worked hard enough, he could make things happen.
During this time--in 2003--we threw all our efforts and energy into hosting a benefit concert for The School of Life Foundation. We hosted it locally at Gilbert High School, and we worked our tails off to advertise, to sell tickets, and to get people there. It's no small feat to rent an auditorium and put on a show, and we knew that if we believed enough, worked hard enough, had a good enough product, and certainly if we PRAYED enough, we could make it happen. We also got some big local names to join us - we involved Jeff from Jesterz, we had William Joseph, Kirsten Millsap, Three2U, and we had the Riggs' sisters. We tried getting Deseret Book on board, but to no avail as the AZ market is a tough cookie to tap into, and we also happened to be performing head-to-head with Michael McClean that evening, so that was a major hit against us. Even so, we had an excellent show lined up and knew we could draw attendance with the quality we had. After a grueling & extremely stressful lead up to the concert, including almost dying in the Gilbert Days 5K...even after doing all we could do, when it all boiled down, "no-one" showed up. That's not actually true - we had probably about 175 people there if I remember correctly, but MOST of them were our very own extended relatives and close friends, and I'll never forget the way Rosanne Tidwell shook her head and said to me, "I'm so sorry" as I was up there in the booth helping her get ready to call the show. In an auditorium of 1000+, when your starving family was using money they didn't have as well as investments from others to pull this together, an experience like that was like a nail in the coffin. In the coming days when people said why they couldn't make it or why they did not come, it was just all the more painful - it felt like insult to injury - not that they understood what was at stakes for our family.
My parents lost so much money from that concert alone right before Christmas, and they had no idea on earth how they were going to feed their family or how soon anything else would ever turn around for us. My mom had a job at $9/hour, but her job alone was not enough. I cannot even express to you how devastating that concert was for my family, my father, my mother, and for me. To recap just exactly what happened - after a downward spiral of losing a business, a home, a job, another job, and a contract with a big artist, losing all retirement, losing all health insurance, December 19th, 2003 was the final day my father lost all the faith, joy, and belief he'd had remaining in the very LAST thing he thought he had left to hope or believe in - music.
I will never forget the look on my mom's face the night of that concert.
And I will never forget the look on my dad's face when the true financial damage was assessed the next business day.
THAT was and HAS EVER SINCE BEEN labeled as, "The Day the Music Died" to my father. How painful it was for us to understand the full magnitude of what he meant when he made those kinds of statements, and to literally see the light of hope & joy extinguished in someone we love.
But it didn't just happen to him - it happened to all of us, and none of us believed anything extraordinarily special would ever come from music to our family again.
In the wake of that dark time, my friend Lindsay encouraged me to apply at Steve Madden Shoe Stores. I took the job at $7/hour. I was also employed shortly there-after by Bro. Mabb & his business, and my father and mother were given the opportunity to work with Brett Brewer, doing hard-labor jobs. My father started doing them alone. One day he was in a backyard looking at fence-high weeds and sat down on the back porch and even cried. He told God he couldn't do it alone, that he needed help. He says that that's when God did one better and sent him a son-in-law instead. I had recently met Mitch at Institute, and while we were dating, Mitch took on working with my dad and mom. For a long while we joked that our job was "cleaning toilets" (because included in what we do was cleaning a lot of nasty toilets). But over time the business has grown, and my husband who is very handy is now partners with my father for a business that originally started out as a music company, but that now has a larger maintenance & repairs division than we ever imagined.
Fast forward a few years. I have no recollection of how it even came to happen, because we all knew that "the music had died" for my dad, but Richard was now a cancer survivor, and in 2010 Three2U made the "Deep Peace" album, and my father started to find joy in music again.
Fast forward again to 2015/2016, the trio was coming up on a 20 year milestone of singing together and decided to commemorate by doing another Christmas album - as Christmas music with the Three Kings album was what had "started it all" for their trio. They've been practicing all year, were arranging & recording, when OUT OF THE BLUE they got a phone call from Jason Deere who invited them to come to Nashville and record their songs in the studio of Jay Demarcus from Rascal Flatts. Going to Nashville was a dream come true for Joe (my dad), Richard, and Jon. Richard called it a bucket list item, and Jon said if he had gone to Nashville when he was younger he would have never come back. They had the time of their life, ate delicious food, because we all know they go out to eat as much as they "practice" music,. And wouldn't you know, they got invited back to Nashville again.
While they were there, Michael McLean (the same Michael McLean whose concert was on the same day as our concert all those years ago) wrote a new chorus for the song Let Him In that my dad solos on the album.
Amid all the recording and trips to Nashville, my dad started talking about doing a concert again. I knew exactly how much effort goes into something like that because I was involved last time, but I got distracted from the magnitude of the feat because from the beginning my dad suggested using Gilbert High School. I told him I'd host the concert ANYWHERE BUT Gilbert High School, because we were NOT going to have a repeat of "The Day the Music Died". We seriously almost used a high school auditorium - I literally called Highland High School, and Campo Verde High School, and Queen Creek High School, but I didn't even check the schedule for Gilbert High School because I personally couldn't do this concert there and re-live that awful experience.
Well life got crazy, and extra stressful - more busy than the last time we did something like this, because I bought a house, I'm adopting children, my dad is a bishop, my parents are running their maintenance business, and the music is on the side...fortunately it's on the side this time...but still because it's on the side, the fires to put out for it were extra stressful. I honestly still have no idea how we found the time, but we found the time to pull it together.
Last week Three2U toured with The Nashville Tribute Band. Our company, Golden Bee Productions produced their concerts - one in Show Low, and two in the Mesa Arts Center. Interestingly enough our biggest day was on the 19th again, but of November this time. Honestly it wasn't until the day of the Mesa Arts Center that I really started to freak out. I was so sick to my stomach. I realized I had actually been in denial over the last many months of planning, and I woke up realizing the full magnitude of what we were trying to do. I literally wondered, "WHAT ON EARTH WERE WE THINKING TO TRY THIS AGAIN?" Maybe you could say that I had a little bit of PTSD going on from the trauma that had been created back on Dec 19th, 2003?
In the end though, when this last weekend all boiled down, we had 3 successful shows, one of them was SOLD OUT. We thought we were going to fall flat on our face again with the Show Low concert, but people pulled through and bought tickets last minute - my cousin Tiffani even arrived with a literal BUS LOAD of high school kids who wanted to come to the concert. There was a children's choir at the Mesa performances, and without purposely planning it this way, interestingly enough had children from the Mabb family and the Brewer family - both families that had been involved in our lives back when the music died and who helped us get on our feet, and even the company my mom used to work for during that time carried our insurance coverage for the event. My friend Lindsay was there. Mitch was there. Friends & family were there. Strangers were there. And on the front row was Greg - who my dad had partnered with all those years ago. The concert was an amazing experience - definitely so fun to meet Jason Deere and spend time with Dan Truman, his boys, and all the members of the Nashville Tribute Band. I can't say we "made money" on the events, but everything was different this time and our efforts and experiences were well worth the investment. Now when people ask me if I'm the manager of Three2U, I can say - "I guess that I am!" - I was doing all the things for Three2U that Manager Jeremy Barron was doing for The Nashville Tribute Band. :)
This time it was like God sent us a gift.
For my dad, my mom, and my family, this experience was definitely a healing kind of gift. It was also like the Lord sent us our own little "It's A Wonderful Life" kind of moment last weekend.
It was like this time He told us that He believes in second chances, and that He wants us to have them.
It was like this time He told us it's okay to heal from the sadness of the past.
It's like He told us it was okay to believe again.
It was because of Him that we were able to experience "The day the music lived again."
Now I'll never forget the content expressions on my Mom's face before & after this concert, and I'll never forget the way my dad said to me, "We did it, D-Jo! We did it!"