He may be young, but Tyler Butler-Figueroa has overcome more hurdles than most. And he has mastered the violin along the way.
The 11-year-old North Carolina native stepped onto the America’s Got Talent stage Tuesday night and immediately melted hearts with his personal, moving story.
Chatting with judge Julianne Hough ahead of his audition, the youngster admitted he’d only picked up the instrument at age seven-and-a-half, a handy distraction as he was battling school bullies at the time. That was the easier of his fights. At age four, he was diagnosed with leukemia. After undergoing rounds of chemotherapy treatment, his hair began to fall out, and the teasing started.
Though none of his family members play an instrument, Butler-Figueroa spotted the violin at school and was smitten. “I would just practise in my bedroom and the more I did it the better I got,” he said. “When I play the violin, he helps me forget the bad stuff.”
When he played the violin Tuesday night, it blew away Hough and her three colleagues.
Simon Cowell looked stunned throughout the performance. Gobsmacked, even. When asked how he felt after the performance, the young performer admitted through tears he felt “very proud” of himself.
The future is bright for Butler-Figueroa, whose illness has been in remission for some years. “You are an extraordinary young man,” Cowell said. “We hear too many stories about people being bullied. But I can tell you one thing, most people are bullied because they are better than the people who bully them. I think you have such amazing talent, such personality.”
Cowell then gave the ultimate F U to the bullies by slamming the golden buzzer.
Watch the segment from NBC’s AGT below.