One of the biggest breakout stars from America’s Got Talent is singer and piano player, Kodi Lee, and the Golden Buzzer winner from the Season 14 premiere has only continued to gain in popularity and inspire each time he performs on stage. The 22-year-old is both blind and autistic, but he hasn’t let these medical setbacks keep him from becoming a professional musician.
The Southern California native is a true musical savant, one of 25 people in the entire world that possess such a keen ability for musical expression, perfect pitch and an audio photographic memory, which means he can recall music after hearing a song just one time. Not only has Kodi mastered classical works by Chopin, Bach and Mozart, he can perform rock, pop and R&B. He’s mastered six instruments, and loves to tap dance.
Kodi largely credits where he is today to the full support of his close-knit family, which includes younger sister Kayla, little brother Derek, and parents, Tina and Eric Lee. Either backstage as he performs on AGT, or cheering him on from the audience at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Kodi returns the love by shares his siblings’ achievements on social media, and continuously expressing how grateful he is for being blessed with such supportive parents.
Here’s what you need to know about Kodi Lee’s family…
1. Kayla & Derek Co-Star on Kodi’s YouTube Channel
Since appearing on AGT, Kodi’s social media presence and fanbase has skyrocketed, and while his younger siblings were alway a main presence on his social before he become a Golden Buzzer winner, both Kayla and Derek guest star on his YouTube videos. They helped Kodi film his “First Fan Mail Unboxing,” and to answer numerous fans’ inquiries about their brother’s blindness and autism, the siblings posted an incredibly informative video, “Vision Breakdown,” in which they explain what’s known as optic nerve hypolpasia.
While both Kayla and Derek studied martial arts as a kids, both have moved on to pursuing other goals in life. Kayla, 19, after graduating from Elsinore High School last year, is attending college with aspirations of being a model and photographer.
2. Derek Is an Aspiring Singer & Works at In-N-Out
Derek, who just celebrated his 21st birthday, works at In-N-Out in Southern California, which is widely considered the best fast food burger joint on the entire West Coast. And like his brother, Derek is also a talented singer and musician.
Sounding reminiscent of folk rock singer Jack Johnson, Derek started posting videos of himself performing on Instagram, and it’s clear the musical talent runs in the Lee family. It wouldn’t be too surprising if Derek soon followed his brother’s footsteps, and tried his luck competing on AGT.
3. Kodi’s Quarterfinals Performance ‘Shocked’ His Family
Kodi’s showing on national TV do not just impress audiences at home, he’s wowing his own family. After his performance of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” during the Quarterfinals Live Rounds his mother gushed, “What really blew me away was his performance was literally the best I have ever heard him sing,” Tina said, of her son. “He took it to a totally different level that shocked my entire family. I honestly could not stop crying happy tears.”
Kayla and Derek also continuously post encouraging messages to their brother on social media, posts which Kodi always likes and comments with gratitude. After the aforementioned Simon & Garfunkel performance Derek wrote, “Congratulations @kodileerocks your performance left me speechless today!! Your dreams are being made a reality and you are changing the world!!”
4. His Mother Says Music Helped Kodi’s Autism
Tina Lee credits music for helping him triumph over autism. She said, “He has all these talents, but he has trouble communicating. He used to tantrum like 30 times a day. After he started performing, he got it. It really helped us to get his autism under control. He wants to be an entertainer.”
As Kodi’s star continues to shine Tina Lee said, “Kodi has been preparing for this day all his life. He works so hard every day on getting better and constantly improving. He worked diligently with his vocal coach Nonie Hilgesen to make sure his audition would be at his best. And honestly, Kodi is ready to go all the time and in his words … ‘HECK YEAH!'”
5. The Lees Don’t Want Fans to Pity Kodi
The Lee family are excited to bring autism awareness into the forefront with Kodi’s run on AGT, however, they are not looking for anyone to feel bad for him. Tina said, ‘You know with [Kodi] having the autism and the talent, and a lot of people will be like, oh, is it because you want to feel sorry for him to give him the praise? And it’s like no, we’ve all known – his family – that he’s extremely talented.”
As for his overnight fame and massive fan base Tina expressed that “his emotions are intensified for him. Our family works together to carry him through and support him,” but also encourages his supporters to just “look at him today, he’s amazing. He just builds off the love and support for everybody, he loves his supporters! He literally will not take a breath, liking and loving every comment.”
Tina added, “He’s learned to deal with the emotions, because that’s how we taught him. We taught him with that therapy every day for years that when you walk outside like all of us, you’ve got to put on that happy face. You’ve got to deal with the people, you’ve got to socialize with the people. Even though he had this musical talent, he still had all of the same behaviors as any autistic child, and every parent asks how do we help them? How do we help them deal with our world? And when I saw that he was an entertainer, that was my cue to say, oh my gosh, that’s what I’m going to use to help him deal.”