AGT’s Simon Cowell praises ‘extraordinary’ 11-year-old cancer survivor violinist

12 June 2019, 10:52

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

‘I just didn’t want to be the kid with cancer. So now, I’m the kid who plays the violin,’ Tyler Butler-Figueroa said on America's Got Talent.

The young violinist took to the stage of America’s Got Talent on Tuesday, impressing the judges with his solo performance on the instrument.

Tyler, 11, played an energised rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’ which earned him Simon Cowell’s coveted Golden Buzzer.

The America’s Got Talent judge pushed the button for Tyler Butler-Figueroa from North Carolina, who was bullied by classmates after being diagnosed with leukaemia aged just four and a half.

“I started playing the violin when I was seven and a half,” said Tyler. “I wanted to start playing the violin because I was being bullied in school. It’s because I had cancer, I almost died.”

Tyler Butler-Figueroa earned a golden buzzer for his AGT performance
Tyler Butler-Figueroa. Picture: America's Got Talent

“The doctors treated me with chemotherapy. When I lost my hair, I was really sad and embarrassed at the same time to go to school. They used to make fun of me and laugh at me because I was different. They would spread rumours to say that my cancer was contagious, and they all wanted to stay away from me,” Tyler said.

His mother, Kisua, continued: “One day, Tyler saw a flyer at his school and it said, ‘After school programme – free violin lessons.’ He said, ‘Mom, I want to do it.’ But no one in our family plays an instrument… and the violin?!

“Once he started that class, it was like a sunshine. He was just full of energy and happy. I was like, ‘I’ve got my son back.’”

The moment Simon Cowell pressed his Golden Buzzer
The moment Simon Cowell pressed his Golden Buzzer. Picture: America's Got Talent

Tyler, who has been in remission for four years now, received a standing ovation from the audience and four judges: Cowell, Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough and Howie Mandel.

“You are an extraordinary young man. We hear too many stories about people being bullied, but I can tell you one thing: most people are bullied because they’re better than the people who bully them,” Cowell told Tyler.

“I think you have such an amazing talent, such a personality. And I would like to say something on your behalf to the bullies,” Cowell told the young violinist before he pressed the Golden Buzzer for him.

America’s Got Talent airs on Tuesdays at 8 pm ET on NBC.