“America's Got Talent” showcases great talent each season. Several show-stopping performances prove how music can be life-changing for young people who face tremendous odds.
Kodi Lee, 22, is blind and autistic. Pause a moment and take in what that means. Kodi's mom, Tina, told judges that music allowed her son "to withstand living in this world." He went to the piano, where he played and sang the 1970 Leon Russell hit "A Song for You." Judge Simon Cowell, known for his acerbic comments, sat slack-jawed as Lee began to sing. The performance earned a coveted Golden Buzzer from judge Gabrielle Union. A Golden Buzzer automatically advances a performer to a much higher level of competition.
When I think of violin, I tend to think classical music. Tyler Butler Figueroa, 11, shattered that notion as he rocked the stage playing Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger."
He told judges that classmates teased him when he lost his hair during chemotherapy. They spread rumors that cancer was contagious. He begged his mom to let him begin free violin lessons. "It was like sunshine," his mom said. Tyler told judges, "I didn't want to be the kid with cancer. I want to be the kid who plays violin." As he walked onto the stage to play for them, you couldn't help noticing his shoes, which lit up as he walked. They were nothing compared to what this kid's performance did to light up the audience.
Cowell told Tyler, "Most people are bullied because they're better than the people who bully them." He then hit the Golden Buzzer for Tyler.
As I started this column June 18, I flipped on “AGT.” The Detroit Youth Choir filled the stage to sing, dance and rap “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. As the judges were offering feedback following their high-energy "get-up-offa-your-chair" performance, host Terry Crews interrupted. He stood on the stage in tears, looked to the choir and said, "Every young man and woman on this stage represents me and where I came from." He recalled the dream he had as a kid in Flint, Michigan, and how he wanted "to make it." He called out veteran choir director Anthony White: "Mr. White, all it takes is one person to believe in a young man and woman for them to reach their dreams and you are that man, sir." You should be able to guess what happened next.
Last, but certainly not least, Joseph Allen, 21, composed the song he sang and rapped Before his performance, he told judges he tried out for the show because, "I see myself as being someone who can make a major impact in the world and I just wanna see how much of a footprint I can leave on earth before I leave." Audience members and judges swayed, clapped and smiled as he sang about his journey, "This young man's out here chasing dreams."
When it came time for judge Howie Mandel to cast his vote, he did it with his foot, ascending the judges' desk and tapping the Golden Buzzer with his shoe, a nod to Allen's footprint comment.
When a crippling amount of negative news has you down or disgusted, may I suggest you treat yourself to a large dose of “AGT,” which airs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC. It's fun, fresh and hopeful. As a matter of fact, try a double dose.
Michele Murphy is a freelance writer from Avon Lake.