MUSIC teacher Nathan Kneen has found himself talking more about Delta Goodrem than instructing students after his entire school watched his breathtaking performance on The Voice last week.
The 40-year-old trained singer and teacher at St Dympna’s Catholic Primary School, Aspley, took to the stage for the first time in 14 years with a blind audition for Channel 9’s The Voice.
His students and fellow staff not only saw his stunning performance of opera classic Nessun Dorma that gained him a place on Delta Goodrem’s team, they also watched as the original member of The Ten Tenors revealed his long battle with anxiety.
Mr Kneen, who learnt to sing as his mother took organ lessons for their local Catholic parish while living in Malaysia, was on tour with The Ten Tenors when he suffered a severe bout of anxiety.
“I always had big nerves before I went on but usually once I went on stage I was fine,” Mr Kneen told The Catholic Leader.
During one particular performance the anxiety overwhelmed him to the point where he ran off stage physically sick.
“So that switch was flicked and the next thing I knew I was suffering from really serious anxiety to the point that it not only stopped my music career but pretty much put me in a fairly bad position socially,” Mr Kneen said.
“I couldn’t be around people, I couldn’t go into shopping centres, I couldn’t ride on the train because I just had all these panic attacks.”
He also couldn’t be around music for roughly four years.
“It was to the point where if I got into the car and someone left the radio on, I would turn it off because it was just too painful to be involved with it in any way,” Mr Kneen said.
“It’s soul destroying when what you do and what you’ve always done is now the thing that makes you feel like the world’s caving in on you.”
Video: Nathan Kneen talks anxiety, teaching and faith with Emilie Ng. Produced by the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Story continues after video link.
The destruction was enough to turn him into “a very angry person about it all”, and made all the worse when his father died in 2007.
“I have to admit that there have been times where I’ve pushed the Church aside because of what’s happened throughout, but at the same time I’ve often found solace in just even going into a church and just sitting and being quiet, and being able to calm myself and not have any sort of pressure around me,” Mr Kneen said.
“Prayer has been a part of improving myself and improving the issues that I’ve had.
“As angry as I probably was, when you would sit down and actually take the time and stop, it was a beautiful place to be.”
In the past 14 years, Mr Kneen has only done one-off gigs to “get my toes wet again” including singing in the choir for the canonisation of Mary MacKillop in Rome, a turning point in his life.
Mr Kneen became involved in the choir while studying teaching at Australian Catholic University.
“How many times do you get to be at the first canonisation for an Australian saint?” he said.
“That was a good gig for me because it was with a gentlemen who really helped to bring me back into music, Andrew Beiers up at Australian Catholic University was the organiser of that.
“For him to ring me and be involved in something like that, there was no way I was ever going to say no.”
It was the encouragement of another friend, former The Voice contestant Luke Kennedy, that saw Mr Kneen give his monumental performance on May 3.
His wife, acting assistant principal at St Columba’s Catholic Primary School, Wilston, Michelle Kneen and two children Maeve and Eamonn watched as “Daddy, the teacher” sang for the judges.
“They know that I sing and they spend most of the time telling me to be quiet so for them to see me sing in a professional light like that I think was very exciting for them,” Mr Kneen said.