Tyler Butler-Figueroa, an 11 year old boy from North Carolina, USA, was diagnosed with cancer of the blood, leukemia, when he was four and half years old, and almost died from the ailment. His mother noticed that his son was kind of pale when they were out at dinner. She felt something wasn’t right with her son, and that evening, she took her son to the emergency room. The doctors took blood samples and came back to say that they had found cancer in Tyler’s blood.
The doctors prescribed chemotherapy and when he started treatment he started losing his hair. This made him feel uneasy, and then the kids at school started teasing him. Tyler was sad and embarrassed to go to school. The other kids used to laugh and him and make fun of him. They spread rumors that his cancer was contagious and that other kids should stay away from him.
One day at school, when he was 7 and half years old, he saw a flyer that there were free violin lessons as part of the after-school program. He asked his mum if he could go. He really wanted to do it. His mum was surprised because there was no one in their family who played an instrument. Tyler was so excited he would practice in his bedroom and pouring himself into it, the more he played he got better. He became happier and full of energy and playing the violin helped him get over all the bullying and bad things that were happening to him at school.
His cancer has been in remission almost since he started playing the violin and now he oozes with confidence and has become a master of the violin. He is an excellent stage performer combining dance with playing the violin. Every time he plays you can feel the soul in the music as he controls his instrument with absolute precision and wows crowds with his song choices and the mature quality of his displays.
In 2019, he auditioned at America’s Got Talent, and wowed both the crowd and judges. He played “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson in his first audition and Simon Cowell pressed the “golden buzzer” to send him straight to the quarter finals. It was an emotional moment, and Tyler said he felt very proud of himself. His mother said that it was a special moment for them because Tyler had managed to come from the very bottom to the highest stage at America’s Got Talent.
Watch his audition here…
I couldn’t help appreciating his resolve that had allowed him to pursue excellence in an area that was of interest to him, even while he was facing some of the darkest realities that any human could ever go through, let alone as a minor. He was facing cancer, peer rejection and bullying but managed to climb over all that to become an epic violinist.
In the quarter finals, he played Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and his performance earned him a standing ovation from the crowd and all the four judges, Howie Mendel, Gabrielle Union, Juliane Hough and Simon Cowell. He received enough votes to advance to the semi finals. The feedback and messages from the judges were really touching, meaningful and highly encouraging.
Watch Tyler’s quarter final performance here…
He continued to amaze in semis and played “Break Free” by Zed ft Ariana Grande and earned another huge standing ovation.
Totally impressed, the voters sent him to the finals and he didn’t disappoint, finishing the competition in the top 10, having stood up against the cream of American and global talents.
The young boy combined talent, dance and swagga and left a huge mark on fans across the world by consistently delivering nothing short of amazing showmanship on all his performances. He is an examples for young kids all over the world, for cancer survivors and for all people determined to make something of their lives. His greatest trial has become the source of his greatest talent. Tyler encourages everyone to follow their dreams and never give up.
Watch his performance of Destiny Child’s “Survivor” in the finals here
Tyler continues to work as an advocate for child survivors of cancer and inspires people from all walks of life with his music. His story also shows the value of parental support as his mother has been a pillar of support encouraging him all the way.
About The Author
Desmond Mapfumo is a Mindset Coach, Startup Builder and Consultant. He is a Strategy, Systems and Business Optimization Expert. He is the Founder and Contributing Editor For Inspiration Media Publications. Inspiration Media is member of the Rebirth Group, which he also founded and leads as the Executive Chairman and CEO.