Michael Ketterer received the Golden Buzzer with his rendition of “To Love Somebody” during his audition for Season 13 of “America’s Got Talent”, often called just “AGT” He charmed the audience with not just his voice, but also his story as a father of six, five of whom have been adopted out of the foster care system. He had a promising career as a singer ahead of him even if he placed fifth at the “AGT” finale, but being arrested for domestic violence changed all that.
- 1 Get to know Michael Ketterer
- 2 Michael’s journey in “America’s Got Talent”
- 3 What happened to Michael Ketterer?
Get to know Michael Ketterer
Michael Ketterer was born on 21 August 1977. He came from a broken family as his father left them when he was 14. His dad wasn’t completely absent from his life but they were not a priority, as he explained, ‘I just think he was working through so much inside of him that we kind of got put on a back burner, especially me.’ He added that being without a father was like being out at sea with no compass.
He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved to Knoxville in 2007 to earn an Accelerated Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at South College, a program designed to prepare its students to pursue a career in nursing in just 18 months. Michael then worked at the Tennova Physicians Regional Medical Center as a nurse in the medical-surgical oncology unit.
His family relocated to Fountain Valley, California in 2014, and he began working at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) as a part-time pediatric mental health nurse. Michael brought his ukulele with him to work every day; he realized how music broke down walls and enabled him to connect with kids. It helped patients who were undergoing a crisis, and having a difficult time putting into words what they were going through. He said that they wrote songs together, about what they were thinking or feeling.
Michael and his wife, Ivey
The two met in high school – Ivey was 18 when 21-year-old Michael proposed to her; he said that their relationship was based on a great friendship. They hung out and enjoyed each other’s company, so that was why they married. The first year was the hardest, because Ivey still had to adjust to living together and building a family without having someone do everything for her. She had never done house chores, had not even touched a stove or washed clothes, so Michael realized that things, some called it adulting, were not going to be as easy as he’d thought they would be.
For them, love was fun, wild, and exciting, however, seven years later, they’d become strangers in their house. Ivey shared that she was not the type who would yell or get angry, but would instead become indifferent or cut people off emotionally. The breaking point came one morning when Ivey gave Michael one-word answers to his questions. He exploded in anger after that, and broke everything in the bedroom and then down the hall. Ivey got a bit scared as she’d never seen this side of him before in all the years they’d known each other.
Michael said he just lost it as he was looking at her, and realized that she was no longer his best friend but an enemy. The intimacy and friendship they enjoyed were gone. They knew they couldn’t continue living this way. Somehow they resolved their issues, and the love came back.
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Adopting five kids from foster care
Michael and Ivey were quite young when they married, so parenting wasn’t on their agenda; he admitted that he wasn’t qualified to become a father as he was still immature. The subsequent pregnancy had complications, and their daughter Sofia was born prematurely. Mother and daughter almost didn’t make it, but they pulled through. He was told that the same thing would happen if his wife became pregnant again, so they decided not to have more kids. He was 22 at that time.
When his daughter was eight, she began dreaming of three little boys and the youngest was always in danger. She would wake up crying and say that they have to adopt them. Having this recurring dream or nightmare for two years caused Michael to seriously consider adopting kids, however, he didn’t have $30,000 to adopt a child overseas. When he found out that adopting from foster care was free, and that health insurance and state college were covered, he felt that he didn’t have any more excuses not to go through with it.
After getting certified, they received a call about three boys (ages five, four, and one) and were told that no foster home could care for them because they were too wild, even called them feral, having been neglected and raised in a meth lab; the mom would cook it and the dad would sell it. They were physically and sexually abused as well. The Ketterers accepted them into their home.
They got another call from foster care about a little boy named Rodrigo, with cerebral palsy. He was born completely normal, but the abuse he suffered from a caregiver, who was his aunt, when he was an infant caused his brain injury. It appeared that Michael’s profession as a nurse made him qualified to take care of Rodrigo, but later on, the amount of work it entailed began to wear him down. He was unsure if he could keep doing it, so he prayed to God and asked for a sign. God gave it to him, literally, in the form of a giant billboard. On it was a father who pushed his son with cerebral palsy through several marathons. Michael broke down in tears, and then peace came over him, as this meant that Rodrigo was his son and that he was not alone in this as God would be behind him.
Foster care called them up again about a little black boy named Sean, who was homeless, and they welcomed him into the family.
Michael liked the diversity in Orange County and Southern California, and said that it was a great fit for his family. Being around different races and ethnicities in their school would be a positive thing for them.
Michael’s journey in “America’s Got Talent”
His family was the reason Michael joined the competition in 2018. He said that having adopted children out of foster care, it was gratifying that he could provide them with a safe place where they were free to dream. Those from foster care usually couldn’t dream, as their thoughts were mostly about surviving. He stepped onto that stage to show them that if he could live out his dreams, then nothing was impossible for them.
During his audition, he sang “To Love Somebody” by the BeeGees, and received a standing ovation from everyone. Simon gave him the Golden Buzzer as he said that sometimes in singing, it was about ‘being real and a surprise.’ He went up to Michael and told him that there was something special about his voice.
Simon Cowell was moved to tears
The creator of the Got Talent franchise was known for his acerbic tongue and sometimes caustic statements, so news that Simon was brought to tears by Michael’s rendition of “Us” by James Bay at the quarterfinals went viral. After the performance, the show’s host, Tyra Banks, asked Simon why he had become emotional, and if Michael’s story of adopting kids resonated with him as he himself was a father to a four-year-old son. As Simon had got to know Michael and heard what the latter’s kids shared about him, it was like it suddenly hit him what a special guy Michael was. He told Michael, ‘As a dad, I can’t imagine what you’ve done, and the fact that you’re on this show, and you really need this…I don’t know, there’s something about you.’
A shoutout to Garth Brooks
In the semifinal round, Michael performed “When I Look at You” by Miley Cyrus. Clearly, Simon was going all out for Michael, as he made a shoutout to Garth Brooks and asked him to write a song for the aspiring singer if he made it to the final round. He wanted Michael to have a killer song to make his dreams come true, because he believed that Michael deserved it. As the American country singer-songwriter talked to Michael over the phone, he could tell that the latter was raised right based on their conversation alone. They talked about ideas on what the song would cover if they would write one. Simon later backtracked and said that it would be unfair for Garth to write one for the finals, but had his fingers crossed because Garth’s response was positive, as he was interested in working with a cool guy like Michael.
Placed fifth on “America’s Got Talent”
Michael delivered an emotional rendition of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and as usual, everyone was moved by his performance and gave him a standing ovation. It was quite evident that he was nervous while singing, but Simon said that it was what made him human. On the finale results night, he sang a new song entitled “The Courage to Love” penned by Garth Brooks. Michael said, ‘It’s like Garth reached into my heart and pulled out the lyrics of this song.’ He was truly grateful for having been given this chance.
Too bad he didn’t win that night but placed fifth because, with the $1 million grand prize money, he planned to buy a house designed to meet the needs of his son with cerebral palsy, and who used a walker. Simon revealed that he was ‘gutted’ over Michael’s loss, as he was quite vocal that he wanted Michael to win. He said that the two of them had a connection the moment they met, and that the more he got to know the guy, the more he liked him. He also planned to sit down with him, alluding to working together in the future.
What happened to Michael Ketterer?
Everybody wanted to know what was next for Michael considering all the attention that he’d been receiving since he appeared in the show. Even if he didn’t win, he must have been ecstatic the night the results were announced, as he was invited by Garth Brooks to guest in his sold-out concert at Notre Dame Stadium in October 201; however, things changed overnight,
Michael was arrested for domestic violence
The day after the finale, news came out that Michael was arrested in Hollywood by the Los Angeles Police Department for domestic violence. The couple got into a fight, and the police were called in. Michael said that the incident was a ‘misunderstanding,’ but admitted to having an argument with his wife. When the LAPD showed up in their hotel room, the wife told them that she didn’t want to press charges. However, they still took Michael into custody because they noticed a red mark on her. The charge was downgraded from felony to a misdemeanor, reportedly because the injury was a minor one. He was released after he posted $50,000 bail. A video was obtained by TMZ of Michael sitting at the back of a police car that was parked outside the hotel they were staying in.
What came next wasn’t a surprise at all. Garth called Michael, and both decided that it was better if he didn’t perform at his concert. He said, ‘That family, they will figure it out. They will find it within themselves, and of course, the good Lord above, they will figure that out.’ It appeared that he also took the song back. He referred to it as a demo song, and would record and release it at a later date.
Life goes on for Michael
Since a Hollywood career seemed to be out of the picture, Michael simply went back to what his life was like before he joined “America’s Got Talent.” His social media posts painted a picture of a man of faith who loved his family and was dedicated to his work with children. He and his wife celebrated their 25th anniversary in December 2022 – Michael’s advice for a lasting marriage was to ‘learn to compromise, always have fun and find someone you have tons in common with…opposites attract but don’t always bind.’
GoFundMe Page for the Ketterers
A friend of Michael’s set up a GoFundMe page in October 2022 to raise funds to help the Ketterers stay in their home. It appeared that they had been struggling financially for several months, as they dealt with inflation and with the increase in the rent of their house by a couple of thousands of dollars. The need was urgent to settle the back rent, otherwise they’d be forced to leave. Fortunately, many heeded the call, and they exceeded the goal of raising $10,000; the money donated amounted to over $14,500.
Working at CHOC Mental Health Services
When the unit opened in 2018, Michael wanted to be part of it. He first became a charge nurse, and then a trainer in comprehensive crisis management. After two years, he became interim manager. He’d become interested in mental health because the kids he’d adopted had issues or traumas, and had to go through different therapies. He fully understood the need for pediatric mental health services, and never failed to stress the importance of mental health care in his Instagram and Facebook posts.
Singing for the Lord
When his family moved to California in 2014, he became a part-time worship leader at the Influence Church based in Anaheim Hills. In 2017, faith-based record label Influence Music was launched. The first album, “Touching Heaven,” was released in May 2018, the result of a week-long writing camp for songwriters and artists from the Christian and secular music industry. The live album featured performances of Michael along with other worship leaders Whitney Medina, Melody Noel and Matt Gilman. It reached No.2 on Billboard’s Christian Albums.
They released their second album, “Rebels,” in 2019, and Michael said that the title track was a declaration of God’s affection for those deemed least worthy by others. He further said that it was one of the most honest songs he had ever written, and hoped that this song would encourage others to be the hands, feet and heart of God for those who were lost and broken. Its music video garnered over 200,000 views. In 2020, “Live at Church: Mixtape Vol. 1” was out featuring “Prophesy” by Michael. It was said that volume one captured how they learned to worship in an empty church during Covid-19, but still believed in miracles through livestream.
Michael’s involvement with Influence Music wasn’t the first time he wrote and sang songs of praise as well as led a congregation in worship. Back in Knoxville, he sang and made music with a Christian group called United Pursuit, and from time to time he would still get an invite to lead worship there.
His life was deeply rooted in faith; he could clearly see how God worked miracles in his life and the people around him. He continued to share his story to inspire others into adopting from the foster care system. When asked what the difference was between having his own kid and adopting one, he replied. ‘There’s no difference as a father. Someone hands you a child and says, “here’s your son.” There literally is no difference!’