Every year, there’s one contestant whose backstory brings a tear to the nation’s eye. This season on America’s Got Talent, it’s Michael Ketterer, of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Michael’s emotional vocal performance in his first audition brought the AGT audience and judges to a standing ovation, and his backstory explains the pain behind his extraordinary voice.
Michael and his wife, Ivey, take care of a family of six children. Sophie, the eldest, is their biological daughter; five younger boys were adopted from foster care.
Three of the boys, brothers, were rescued from a squalid meth lab with profound residual trauma. Michael and Ivey’s next foster child was a young homeless boy. Their final foster child is a young boy who was recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
The boy was unable to speak when he was first taken into the Ketterers’ care, as a result of significant abuse.
“Here are kids in our own hometown … all of our kids came from within a 12-mile radius of our home,” Michael explained in an interview with USA Today.
The couple felt no need to look further afield: “[Kids] that needed to be adopted, that needed family, and so it was pretty eye-opening … we went to Childhelp, and we got certified,” Michael said.
Michael’s first audition song choice was a soulful number that perfectly showcased both his vocal talent and profound emotional spectrum; the song was in equal parts beautiful and yet heavy with heartache.
All four AGT judges praised Michael’s performance and his achievements as a human being, husband, and father. Simon Cowell then went one step further by awarding Michael the much-desired golden buzzer.
The talented musician will be competing in the final round of AGT‘s 13th season. After a particularly heart-wrenching rendition of “When I Look at You,” he was fast-tracked to the finals. Nobody had to think twice; the fact that he has earned his place is indisputable.
To Michael himself, Simon could barely contain his emotion: “As a dad I kinda get … I couldn’t … I can’t imagine what you’ve done.” The judge was brought to tears. Later, recognizing Michael’s sacrifice, he commented: “You really need this and are a really, really special guy.”
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Michael Ketterer is not only a father to six children but is also a pediatric nurse and part-time worship leader. As a singer, he is involved with Christian music group United Pursuit, and a second faith-based band named Influence Music, affiliated with Influence Church, Anaheim Hills.
Michael’s adopted son Rodrigo, or “Rodee” to the family, suffered severe trauma before being taken into the Ketterers’ home.
“He couldn’t talk,” Michael revealed to ET Online, “and he couldn’t speak, because … he was abused by his caregiver, and that’s what gave him cerebral palsy.”
If Michael wins the series, he knows he’s in for more than an accolade; there’s a $1 million prize up for grabs. His ambitions for the prize money are humble, and honest: “I’m going to invest in a home for our family,” Michael told USA Today, “… we need a home that’s handicap accessible.”
So there are two reasons to root for Michael Ketterer; he’s an extraordinary singer, and an extraordinary human being. May good things come to those who deserve them, and Michael is at the top of that list.
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