|Mia Koehne is an Arizona worship leader who will appear at Elevate 2013 at Timís Toyota Center.|
Elevate 2013 is an opportunity for more than 20 national and Arizona artists to lift up fellow Christians. The 3-day music festival, June 28-30, is a first-ever for Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Mia Koehne is one of the Arizona artists who will perform - or not.
"I'm not a performer; I'm just the worst," Koehne laughingly said in a phone interview from her Phoenix home. "God showed me my gift is worshiping and worship leading. People see that and it's contagious. Let's worship Him together."
She came to recognize this gift only recently.
Chicago native Koehne said she kept a good front through her 20s and 30s, singing in a choir and with a worship team, "but it was all fake."
"I was completely broken, going through some really tough times that almost broke apart my marriage," she shared.
She began to make up songs at the piano, and her husband, Bob, told her she needed to share the tunes.
"I told him the songs were just between me and the Lord, but he said, 'Mia. It's not about you. Stop being greedy and start trusting.
"I always say the reason I am where I am - wherever that is - is because of Christ and because of my husband."
She took a "step of faith," and in addition to leading worship services across the country and opening concerts for Christian headliners such as Phillips, Craig, and Dean, writes and records her songs. But her latest CD, Shelter in the Wind, through Tree Hill Collective, is a compilation of her favorite old and new songs straight from the Bible with only one song she co-wrote.
"It's a neat experience when you get to handpick songs from someone's library, and I think every single song is amazing. I'm excited about what it's doing," she said.
She said age is not a hindrance since entering the music business in her 40s, because unlike younger artists, she doesn't have to take time off to start a family.
"When God says 'go,' you go," she said. "You don't put a timeline on service to God."
Although the couple's three children are grown, Mia still calls them "her babies." Christopher is a senior at Grand Canyon University; Aaron will be a freshman at GCU next fall, and Miriam will be a high school senior.
"No 'Moses,'" she said before being asked. "But we did have a dog named Moses."
Getting to the Elevate concert on time requires another leap of faith. Normally, her engagements are spread out, but that weekend is jam packed. She has concerts in Pittsburgh Friday and Saturday, lands in Phoenix at 8:30 a.m. Sunday and must drive to Prescott Valley from there for a noon concert. She also is one of the opening acts for the evening headliner Casting Crowns.
"I can't wait to see what God does - how he clears the traffic," she said.
The next day she flies to San Antonio, where she will speak and sing for 25,000 youth at the Alamo Dome. After audiences of 2,000 in Pittsburgh and 5,000 in PV, Koehne said she should be all warmed up.
"It's a testimony to God that He worked it all out," she said. "He takes care of opening doors to where I'm going to go."
She also volunteers in the office of Extreme Faith, one of the festival's producers.
"They have a heart to bring great music that will lift up the name of God and Jesus to people," she said, noting it helps her stay focused on Christ while a part of the music machine. "It's a place I believe in."
For more information about Mia Koehne, visit her web site: www.aboutmidnight.com.
Phoenix native and full-time Christian musician Brian Weaver is scheduled to perform after Koehne on Sunday, and also on Friday afternoon and as the opener for Friday night's headliners, Jars of Clay and Third Day. He's opened for Jar of Clay before, as well as Tenth Avenue North, Saturday's headliner, among others.
With limited stage time, he likes to open with a joke before starting a song he hopes will connect and pull people in to hear both the music and the message.
I love using humor, but I'm a dork, according to my wife," the singer/songwriter said, laughing. "But as long as I amuse myself, it's perfectly fine."
He noted that sometimes a barrier exists between the audience and the person on stage.
"I like having fun and making that obvious. Laughter just opens up people to hearing something a little bit deeper."
Weaver started his musical journey almost accidentally - as a college student in 2001 with Young Life Youth Camps.
"My roommate said they were looking for someone to lead music, so I went and there were about 12 kids there," he recalled. "It was so different from me growing up in a church. I love the outreach approach, going to where the kids are at, building a relationship and showing Jesus through that, instead of expecting kids to come to church. It's a great platform to introduce the gospel to kids."
He spent six seasons with the youth camps, reaching more than 7,500 young people.
Now at his own church, as a guest or for churches between worship leaders, he leads worship services across the Valley for as many as 50 of 52 Sundays annually, in addition to occasional weekend concerts and camps.
He and Stephanie, his bass playing wife of 1.5 years, also actively lead Young Life through Red Mountain, Arizona's largest high school. He even serves as a substitute teacher there, and when kids ask what he does, he tells them he's a Christian musician.
"Kids find me after class online. They're the ones asking what's going on. It's a direct ministry opportunity. Sometimes when I'm traveling I don't have that opportunity, so it's really cool to have both aspects of ministry," Weaver said.
He's written or co-written all but two songs on his albums, including one he co-wrote with another Elevate artist, Jonny Diaz. He covers only one, Mighty to Save, on his latest album, Let Love In, and he sang it in Spanish, because that's how he first heard it while in Peru for Young Life.
"I love to play it live because it puts a different spin on it: am I worshiping about the words, or just to draw closer to God?" he said.
Although based in Mesa, Weaver spends as much time as he can in Nashville, the home base for many Christian as well as Country artists.
"About 80 percent of the Christian market is within a day's drive (8-10 hours by tour bus) of Nashville," Weaver said. "That's why it's hard to get artists out west."
In fact, he said it's safe to say the 3-day Elevate festival is the first of its kind in Arizona.
"I'm really excited to see such a huge lineup of artists. I haven't seen that many at one time before," he said. "I'm excited to see what God has in store."
Weaver opined that many attendees could travel from California for Elevate 2013 because the Southwest's only other multi-day festival, Spirit West Coast, has downsized this year from two venues to one.
Tim's Toyota Center General Manager Gary Spiker said already producers are talking about making Elevate a huge annual event to reach people from the surrounding states.