Breadcrumbs

Mike Chunn inspires Hillary scholars

6 October 2015

Mike Chunn wanted to be a Beatle but joined the Split Enz instead.

Mike Chunn wanted to be a Beatle but joined the Split Enz instead.

Former member of Split Enz and the Citizen Band, Mike Chunn was the keynote speaker at this year's Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Leadership Pathway event on 5 October.

Mike spoke to 125 Hillary scholars at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts with stories of his childhood, personal battles and triumphs.

Although some of the 63-year-old's references flew over their heads, the young audience was captivated by Mike's energetic accounts of his life.

"All we wanted was to be Beatles," said Mike. "We set our sights and nothing was going to stop us."

Mike said his time in the band was "wacky and profoundly joyous" but once the band went international, he developed anxiety disorder agoraphobia, the fear of public or open places. This made travelling and performing impossible and so he left the band.

His advice to the scholars was never be afraid to talk to someone if you're struggling or need some help. "It took me a decade to understand and overcome my fear," he said. "If I'd talked to someone about it earlier things would have been very different."

Mike now heads the Play It Strange Trust, which encourages school children from across the country to write music. 

"In New Zealand we just don't have a societal belief in teenagers pursuing crafts of the imagination," he said. "I think your generation will be the one to change that."

Mike was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to music in the 2002 Queen's Birthday Honours. He was promoted to Companion of the same order for services to music and mental health awareness in the 2015 New Year Honours.

The Leadership Pathway event is part of the University's Sir Edmund Hillary Scholarship Programme, providing academic, sporting and leadership programmes to Hillary scholars. Past speakers include actress Miranda Harcourt, Olympic and Atlantic rower Rob Hamill, and Jamie Fitzgerald, founder and CEO of management consultancy Inspiring Performance, who shared his stories and insights from the First Crossings TV show.


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