At the end of the season 14 premiere of America’s Got Talent, new judge Gabrielle Union gave her Golden Buzzer to Kodi Lee. The contestant, who is blind and autistic, sang and played piano, moving the judges and audience to tears and sending them to their feet as the audition song concluded.
When it was Kodi’s turn to perform, he walked onto the stage with the support of his mom, Tina, and his cane and introduced himself as 22-year-old Kodi Lee. When Union asked Kodi what he was going to do for them, he said “I’m going to sing a song for you on the piano.”
Union then turned her attention to Tina and asked her to tell them a bit about her son. While he held onto her arm, she said:
“Kodi is blind and autistic. We found out that he loved music really early on. He listened and his eyes just went huge and he started singing, and that’s just when I was in tears because that’s when I realized ‘Oh my gosh, he’s an entertainer.’ Through music and performing, he was able to withstand living in this world because when you’re autistic, it’s really hard to do what everybody else does. It actually has saved his life, playing music.”
Tina helped him over to the piano and knelt down next to him, whispering “This is your time, okay? There’s gonna be like 20 different cameras on you, ready? Go.” His response was an enthusiastic “Yeah!”
When he started singing “A Song For You” by Ray Charles, the judges’ jaws dropped and the audience immediately began to cheer.
At the end of the song, the whole theater erupted in cheers and applause, and the judges gave him a standing ovation that lasted as Kodi joined them all in clapping for his performance. Tina rejoined her son on the stage, and once the clapping began to subside, judge Howie Mandel let Kodi know that “all four judges and everybody in this room were up on their feet.”
After the other judges praised his awe-inspiring performance, it was Gabrielle Union’s turn to speak to the mother and son again: “I’m a new judge this season and I’m also a new mom this year. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. You just want to give your kids the moon, the stars, and the rainbows, and tonight I’m gonna give you something special.” She then pressed her Golden Buzzer, bringing Kodi’s mother and his family (who joined him onstage from the wings) to tears.
If you are interested in watching more of Kodi’s incredible performances, he has a YouTube channel for covers he has done accompanying himself on the piano as he sings; the channel’s videos date back as far as 8 years ago, tracking his progression and dedication. In October 2017, they shared a video of him performing “My Girl” with the back-up support of a band at a restaurant called Zabber Thai Fusion. His comfortability in front of an audience and confidence as a musical artist proves that he is very much ready for the live AGT shows in Hollywood.