Tyler Butler-Figueroa started playing the violin because he didn’t want to be bullied anymore for having cancer.
“When I play the violin it helps me forget about all the bad stuff,” the North Carolina preteen said while auditioning for “America’s Got Talent” Tuesday. “I just didn’t want to be the kid with cancer, so now I’m the kid who plays the violin.”
Returning “America’s Got Talent” judges Howie Mandel (left) and Simon Cowell (right) will be joined by new additions Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough (center left and center right). But what about the “Talent” this season? Check out the contestants they’ll be judging this time around.
Simon Cowell helped the preteen take it a step further. Butler-Figueroa is now a golden buzzer-winning violinist who is instantly moving on to the Live Auditions.
Butler-Figueroa was diagnosed with leukemia at age 4 and underwent rounds of chemotherapy that caused his hair to fall out.
“I was really sad and embarrassed … to go to school,” he said. “They used to make fun of me and laugh at me because I was different. They would spread rumors to say that my cancer was contagious and they all wanted to stay away from me.”
An after-school program offering free violin lessons changed Butler-Figueroa’s life at age 7. He gained his confidence back and his mother, Kisua Butler-Figueroa, said she “got my son back.”
Butler-Figueroa appropriately performed Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” complementing his sharp notes on the violin with rock-star dance moves and light-up sneakers. (“First of all, I love your shoes so much,” newcomer Julianne Hough said.)
“You are an extraordinary young man,” Cowell said. “I think you have such an amazing talent, such a personality, and I would like to say something on your behalf to the bullies …”
And with that, Cowell pushed the golden buzzer, bringing tears of joy to Butler-Figueroa, his mother and probably most of America who tuned in.
“I’m feeling very proud of myself and I feel very happy,” the newest “AGT” contestant said.
Butler-Figueroa has something else to be proud of. “I have been in remission for almost four years,” he said to the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.