6/26/2013 9:26:00 AM Christian music festival starts Friday at Tim's Juan DeVevo's aviation career nosedived, but music career soaring with Casting Crowns
Casting Crowns members are, from left: Megan Garrett, Brian Scoggin, Chris Huffman, Juan DeVevo, Mark Hall, Hector Cervantes and Melodee DeVevo. Cervantes has taken on a new ministry and Josh Mix, not pictured, has replaced him in the band.
Casting Crowns guitarist Juan (Ja-wan - "it's Italian") once was focused on what some people would call the highest heights.
"My degree is in aviation; I like flying and I was headed for high commercial jets," he said. "But I detoured all that."
His detour - spreading the word of Jesus Christ through Christian music - is bound to take him much higher, to heaven, someday.
Casting Crowns is Sunday's headliner for the 3-day Elevate Christian Music Festival coming to Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley June 28-30.
The group got its start in 1999 in Daytona Beach, Fla., not as a rock band pandering to students on spring break, but as a youth worship band. Despite worldwide fame as a Christian music icon, its members continue to serve as youth pastors, even while touring the world.
DeVevo, his violinist wife, Melodee, and lead singer Mark Hall are the group's remaining founding members. Megan Garrett and Chris Huffman came on board in 2001, then Brian Scoggin joined, and Josh Mix is the newest member, replacing guitarist Hector Cervantes, now a full-time worship leader.
With numerous Dove awards already under its belt, Casting Crowns was voted Group of the Year by K-Love fans early this month.
"God kind of made all that happen," DeVevo said in a phone interview from his home in Atlanta, adding, "We didn't set out to be a signed band. It's all to Him. Anytime He wants to pull the plug, it's all right."
The plug seems to be planted firmly in place and keeping them traveling.
"We always know where God wants to go with this. We end up at places where they don't really have concerts," he said, naming North Korea, Kenya, Brazil and South Africa, and laughing about starting the Brazil concert nearly two hours late, after a women's conference let out, so they'd have an audience.
He said the group recently played A Night of Hope for Newtown, Conn.
"Every time a tragedy happens, we wonder how to help, to bring hope to a hurting situation," DeVevo said. "We usually do upbeat and happy music. God put us here for a reason. Nobody on that stage sings any songs that don't mean anything."
Their first single, If We Are the Body, still is an oft-requested song with the refrain: "If we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching? Why aren't His hands healing? Why aren't His words teaching? And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way?"
Their latest album is a compilation of hymns with other Christian artists, including Tenth Avenue North (another Elevate headliner) and Newsboys.
"These songs have powerful lyrics and a deep message that connect people with God," he said.
They also made an appearance as themselves in the March release movie, Ring the Bell, which Hall wrote and directed.
"I heard that three people gave their life to Christ while shooting the movie. God can do anything," DeVevo said.
That's evident in Melodee's case. She's battled an aggressive form of arthritis for the past seven years, undergoing numerous joint surgeries, including having both wrists fused.
"Her big deal was mobility. When she did the acoustic tour in the fall, she could hit all the notes on the violin," Juan said.
The couple also keeps busy with their 4- and 6-year-old daughters.
"We're homeschooling the older one, and letting the younger one keep coloring, pretending she's in school, too," the proud dad said.
In addition, they volunteer with their church's youth group. "We're all about giving the ministry away and let students ignite passion," he said. "(For example) we have a drama team, dance team and scrapbooking ministry, and we talk about life during them - everything we can think up to help students do ministry."
He truly believes, "Trust God and let him do what He will."
Single and 3-day tickets are available to Elevate Christian Music Festival. To order tickets by phone toll free, call 866-443-8849. For VIP upgrade, including Q&A sessions, call 480-812-1100. For more information and updates, visit: elevatemusicfestival.com.