Tyler Butler-Figueroa took the stage as the final performer of the night on episode 3 of America’s Got Talent. The young violinist captured the hearts of the audience and the show’s judges with his performance and story, ultimately earning a Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell.
The 11-year-old North Carolina native performed “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson on violin, commanding the stage and engaging the audience.
Here’s what you need to know about Tyler Butler-Figueroa:
1. Tyler Was Diagnosed With Cancer When He Was 4 Years Old
In his introductory video on the show, Tyler told the camera that he was diagnosed with Leukemia “at the age of 4 and a half.” His mom then opened up about how they discovered his illness, saying “One day, we were out to dinner, and we said something doesn’t look right with Tyler. He turned kind of pale. So a mother’s instinct said ‘let me get him to the emergency room.'” After getting his blood work taken, she said the “doctors came in and said ‘Yeah, he does have cancer.'”
Tyler was treated with chemotherapy and revealed that he has been in remission for almost 4 years.
2. Tyler Was Bullied in School for Being ‘Different’ as a Result of His Cancer Battle
Tyler said that after he started losing his hair from chemotherapy treatments, he felt sad and embarrassed to go to school. Those feelings only worsened when the kids at school began to laugh at him for being different; he said that they would stay away from him and say his cancer “was contagious.”
After his moving performance, which earned him a standing ovation, the judges asked Tyler how he was feeling now that his audition performance was over. He told them he was feeling really proud of himself. Cowell told Tyler “You are an extraordinary young man. We hear too many stories of people being bullied, but I could tell you one thing: Most people are bullied because they’re better than the people who bully them.” He then said he had something to say to the bullies on his behalf and pressed his Golden Buzzer, sending Tyler automatically into the live round of the competition.
3. Learning to Play the Violin Helped Him ‘Forget About All the Bad Stuff’
Tyler’s mom, Kisua, revealed that he first discovered the violin after seeing a flyer at school for free afterschool violin lessons. When he told her he wanted to do the program, she said “But no one in our family plays an instrument, and the violin?”
Kisua recalled that the violin gave him energy and happiness again, and she felt like she finally had her son back.
Tyler told the camera “When I play the violin, it helps me forget about all the bad stuff. I just didn’t want to be the kid with cancer. So now, I’m the kid who plays the violin.”
4. He Performs Violin Around Raleigh & Posts His Covers Online
Tyler’s Instagram page only had a few dozen followers before his Golden Buzzer performance on America’s Got Talent, but the count began to grow after the episode aired. His posts reveal that he travels around his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina playing his violin for public enjoyment.
He also has a Youtube account, which had 489 subscribers at the time of publication. On the channel’s about page, it says that the genres of music he plays on violin include “Pop, Classical, Gospel, Folk, Memorial, Patriotic, Soft Rock, Line Dance, Nigerian, Hip Hop, Country and Spanish.”
5. Tyler Has a Younger Brother Named Adam
Although Tyler’s Instagram is mostly used for sharing AGT updates and violin videos, his younger brother Adam has been featured a number of times on the account. Adam is four and a half years younger than him, and has been referred to in captions as his “mini me” as well as his “security guard” and “hype man.”