For Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, finding the right artists to perform at the Emmaus Center is a labor of love, and he believes that renowned Contemporary Christian artist Mike Donehey, who will perform at the center on Tuesday, Oct. 13, is that rare artist who checks off all the right boxes.
Msgr. Gigantiello, the pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel-Annunciation Parish in Williamsburg, and Craig Tubiolo Syracusa, executive director of Godsplan Productions have lined up some premier talent to fill the beautifully renovated concert hall. Their mission is to evangelize to the young people at the Emmaus Center through the arts and music.
“Mike Donehey is a well-known Christian singer who fits the bill perfectly,” explained Msgr. Gigantiello. “The truth is there are not too many Christian concert halls or venues in the tri-state area, with most being down south. So we’re trying to promote it here at the Emmaus Center and trying to promote the faith with artists like this one.”
Omaha, Nebraska-born singer-songwriter Mike Donehey cemented his relationship with God after surviving a near-fatal single car accident while driving to school with his best friend on Mine Road in Spotsylvania County during his senior year of high school. His car swerved off a back road and flipped over. He was thrown from the vehicle, and the horrific crash left him with a back broken in two places, a broken skull, and an amputated ear. Incredibly, he flat-lined five times in the ambulance during the drive to the hospital, where the doctors told him that he would never walk again.
But Donehey defied the odds and was determined to prove them wrong. During the long days he spent in the hospital convalescing from the accident, he turned to music and began teaching himself how to play the guitar.
“You know, for the first time, I was convinced that if I was alive, then I’m alive for a reason, and God wants me to do something with this one life I’ve been given, so I turned to music,” said Donehey.
He had grown up listening to Motown artists that his mother loved and recalled that his favorite song was “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye. He also was inspired by the Beatles and was especially drawn to music from the 60s and 70s. And he recalled that those songs and just holding the guitar helped him through the healing process.
Following his remarkable recovery, Donehey moved to Florida to attend Palm Beach Atlantic University. It was there that he struck up a friendship with fellow musician Jason Jamison as they formed the popular contemporary Christian band Tenth Avenue North.
Donehey has fond memories of his former group.
“We started as a dorm room college band and began winning ‘battle of the band’ contests,” Donehey recalled. “Eventually, we started opening up for artists including Katy Perry and getting to play arenas and festivals for 100,000 people. But, you know, I still remember the first time we heard one of our songs on the radio and jumped out of our van and started dancing around.”
The group released eight albums, beginning with the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) Gold Over and Underneath in 2008 and followed by the No. 1 Billboard Christian LP’s The Light Meets the Dark, The Struggle, and Cathedrals. In addition, Over and Underneath and Cathedrals made the Top 40 on the Billboard 200, while The Light Meets the Dark climbed to No. 15, and The Struggle reached No. 9.
The band was recognized as the Gospel Music Association’s New Artist of the Year in 2009. Their first single, “Love is Here,” reached No. 3 on the Christian Music chart, and their next single, “By Your Side,” spent 48 weeks on the Billboard Christian Songs chart and was certified Gold, climbing to No. 2 and winning them the Gospel Music Association’s Dove Award for Song of the Year in 2010. Their songs “Strong Enough to Serve” and “You Are More” both reached No. 1, with “You Are More” and “Worn” also earning Gold certification.
In 2012 Tenth Avenue North released its most successful album, The Struggle, which included the No. 1 Billboard Rock and Christian song “Losing.” The group received eight GMA nominations, including their wins for New Artist and Song of the Year as well as Short Form Music Video for “You Are More” in 2012.
In 2019 Donehey published his first book, Finding God’s Life for My Will: His Presence is the Plan. The book recounts Donehey’s response when young musicians come up to him and ask him when he knew that music was God’s plan for his life. “I just look back at them, and I say, ‘I don’t.’ There was no secret moment when a beam of light came down from heaven, and you heard God’s voice.” Donehey is currently preparing for the publication of his new book, Grace in the Gray: A More Loving Way to Disagree.
After 20 years together, Donehey and his band amicably parted ways in 2021. That same year he released his first solo album Flourish, which contained three singles, including the Top-20 US Christian Airplay hit “All Together.” Donehey will be appearing in concert at the Emmaus Center on Thursday, Oct. 13. The historic opera house at 288 Berry Street in Williamsburg is fast becoming the must-visit destination for faith-based programs.
“We’re creating a music evangelization movement within the Diocese of Brooklyn,” said Craig Tubiolo. “We want people to attend these concerts and experience it for themselves because we believe that the music will bring the listeners to Christ.”
The Emmaus Center is a world-class performing arts theater housed in the Historic Williamsburg Opera House that was built in 1897 and renovated in 2020 and 2021.
Donehey is thrilled to be bringing his music to the Emmaus Center. “My band and I only performed in Brooklyn once before, so when we were offered the opportunity to play there again, I said we have to do it,” he said.