Kodi Lee, a 22-year old blind and autistic musical savant who attended Elsinore High School, is the latest winner of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
“This is so amazing,” Lee said after the announcement was made Wednesday, Sept. 18, when host Terry Crews asked him what he thought. “Unbelievable!”
In winning the contest, Lee will headline shows Nov. 7-10 at Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Tickets for those six shows are on sale now at www.vividseats.com, and depending on the show, ticket prices start anywhere from $97 per ticket to $200 for opening night.
As for the $1 million prize touted by the show, it looks like Lee will receive either a financial annuity over the next 40 years or receive “the present cash value of such annuity,” according to the show.
After his Tuesday night final individual performance of Freya Ridings’ “Lost Without You,” which he said he dedicated to his mother in an interview with Talent Recap’s Jackelyn Shultz, Lee said if he won the million dollars he would “buy lots of grand pianos in every color.”
Lee edged out Detroit Youth Choir who finished in second place.
Comedian Ryan Niemiller was third; V. Unbeatable finished in fourth and Quartet Voices of Service was fifth, rounding out the final five contestants.
Ndlovu Youth Choir, singer Benicio Bryant, opera singer Emanne Beasha, violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa and dance troupe Light Balance Kids were also finalists for the prize.
Earlier in the evening, Lee sang the Calum Scott hit “You are the Reason” with British songstress Leona Lewis.
In an interview with E! Red Carpet and Award Shows after he was named the winner, Lee said “Heck yeah!” when asked by Justin Sylvester of E! whether he knew he was going to win.
Sylvester asked Lee’s mother Tina when it was that she knew her son would “change the world.”
“Oh my gosh, since he was like 2 years old, I would say, when we saw that special musical ability in him,” Tina said. “We knew there was something really special about him. And as we kept working with him, he just kept blowing people’s minds everywhere we went.”
Lee shot into the national spotlight when his audition performance on the show earned him a golden buzzer from judge Gabrielle Union sending him straight to the live performances in Hollywood.
Tina Lee was always by his side, guiding him to every performance, and she introduced him to the judges before his performance of Donny Hathaway’s “A Song for You.”
“We found out that he loved music really early on,” Tina Lee said back in May when she introduced Kodi Lee to the judges. “He listened, and his eyes just went huge. He started singing, and that’s when I just, 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.”
Union told Lee they would love to hear his music, and his mother asked him if he was ready.
“I’m ready!” Lee said enthusiastically.
The video of that debut performance went viral worldwide and has been viewed more than 45 million times.
Lee has captivated the nation beyond “America’s Got Talent” as well. Earlier this month, he was nominated to the E! People’s Choice Award 2019 category called The Competition Contestant of 2019.
Lee is well-known to locals, of course, who have seen his performances all over the region with Midnight Satellites. He has been performing nonstop around the area with the band that recently opened for Warrant at Wiens Family Cellars.
Jeff Pack can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.