‘American Idol’ finalist wows Chapel audience
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
The music of Chapel at Grand Canyon University, always so powerful with the weekly performance by the Worship Team, has gained an extra injection of talent this fall.
It has been worth tuning in.
Just three weeks after Mia Koehne punctuated her talk with a sampling of her singing ability, Scott MacIntyre demonstrated why he was an “American Idol” finalist. Chapel has featured plenty of big-name speakers, but MacIntyre has the highest Q rating of all of them.
His music and his message Monday at GCU Arena combined for another unforgettable week, albeit unusual. This time, the Worship Team stepped aside and MacIntyre filled the entire hour, turning Chapel into a mini-concert with maximum spiritual effect.
MacIntyre’s story came into national focus when he competed in Season 8 of “American Idol.” He was eliminated, finishing eighth, in April 2009, and has been performing and building his ministry ever since.
But that’s only a tiny slice of what makes him special.
Anyone who has watched “Idol” knows MacIntyre has been blind since birth and has only a two percent field of vision. “It’s like looking through a coffee straw,” is how he once described it. Undaunted, he was trained to become a classical pianist as a child, learning music entirely by ear because he didn’t have a certified Braille teacher.
He talked Monday about what it was like not to be able to play baseball (“Please don’t throw anything at me,” he said) or drive a car.
“I have never driven a car to this day … as far as anyone knows,” he said with a mischievous grin.
His adventurous spirit is demonstrated in other ways: With the help of a guide, he swims, hikes and skis. He teaches dancing. He even has created his own computer games.
“I realized I have a choice, and instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I decided to focus on the things that I could do despite my disability, with what God had given me,” he said.
His other musical accomplishments include being admitted into Arizona State University at age 14 to begin work toward his bachelor’s degree; earning a master’s degree at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal College of Music; and performances with the Phoenix Symphony in 2005 and at the White House a year later.
But what makes MacIntyre’s story even more compelling is the other half of his physical challenges – the half that, incredibly, is more challenging than being blind.
He is a two-time kidney transplant recipient.
He talked in detail about it Monday. He said he had grown comfortable with overcoming his blindness and had just finished delivering the commencement speech at ASU when he learned that his kidneys were failing the first time.
“All of a sudden, here was a situation out of which I could not help myself, in and of my own strength,” he said. “It was going to take someone else outside of me, stepping in to do what I could not do, stepping in to stand in the gap for me to save my life.”
He was so weak he didn’t have the strength to even play the piano, but his faith in God never wavered. And after a year on dialysis his prayers were answered and he found a donor – the wife of his former music teacher at ASU. Problem solved, right?
Not quite. Eight years later, just a few weeks before he got married, he learned that the kidney was failing and he would need another transplant. More dialysis, and this time the donor was anonymous. He eventually found out that she was a 27-year-old single mom with three children.
“I feel like I have experienced a very tangible metaphor of the Gospel,” he said. “Here I was, powerless to save myself, until someone else who I did not know stepped in and saved my life, gave me the gift of life.
“We are all powerless to save ourselves from sin. Yet Jesus Christ steps in and offers us the greater gift of eternal life.”
And not only did the transplant save his life again, he noted. It also granted him and his wife, Christina, the opportunity to have a son, Christian.
MacIntyre has a very active ministry, which can be found at scottmacintyre.com, and he aims to use the platform God has given him through “American Idol.” He urged his listeners to set up their life for a “posture of giving” – whether by texting a donation to Scott MacIntyre Ministries (phone: 629-206-9979) or benefiting another cause.
He closed with another song, “Safe in My Arms,” before Dr. Tim Griffin, Pastor and Dean of Students, led the congregation in prayer for MacIntyre’s ministry. It had been quite an hour, and the ratings were through the roof, all the way to heaven.
● For a replay of MacIntyre’s appearance, which included several songs and videos, click here.
● Next week’s speaker will be Emma Tautolo, Athletes in Action.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].