Julie Hinds Detroit Free Press
Published 10:21 AM EDT Sep 18, 2019
The winner hasn’t been announced yet, but the Detroit Youth Choir is already feeling like a million dollars in gratitude.
“Just to know that our name is known throughout the United States and the world is amazing,” said choir director Anthony White by phone from Los Angeles on Tuesday night, after his group performed live on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” finals.
The competition was fierce last night, with Howie Mandel predicting that blind, autistic singer Kodi Lee would take home the $1 million prize and Simon Cowell telling the military-themed Voices of Service quartet that “you’ve just given yourself a chance at winning this whole competition.”
But DYC gave it their all with a spirited version of the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis hit “Can’t Hold Us” — the same song that earned them a golden buzzer to the quarterfinals in June from host Terry Crews.
“Detroit versus everybody!” raved Gabrielle Union afterward, praising the choir for its example of excellence.
Tonight, they’ll go for a three-peat, by singing it again during the results show — this time with Macklemore himself.
Why repeat the same song on such an important night? “It was an ‘AGT’ and DYC collaborative decision to revisit our song but put a twist on it,” said White. “So our twist was we added a step in there. We made it happen.”
Besides the new choreography, the performance had the advantage of reminding viewers of the choir’s original breakthrough moment on the show. The June version of “Can’t Hold Us” went viral on YouTube with more than 10 million views.
When the winner of the viewer voting (which is now closed) is revealed live on the air, the DYC kids are prepared for whatever happens, according to White.
“At this point, just by us being in the finals, we’ve won,” he said. “Win or lose, I think, when we get back to the city, we might have a building, we might have some transportation for our young people. We might have all of that waiting for us when we get back home. I can’t wait to see what’s going on in Detroit.”
More: Detroit Youth Choir delivers a knockout reprise in ‘America’s Got Talent’ finals
Indeed, the southeast Michigan community has stepped up to support the nonprofit group, which has existed for more than two decades and has members from Detroit, Oak Park, Romulus, Canton Township and other suburbs.
The Kresge Foundation granted them $10,000 to help cover expenses related to the choir’s month-long stay in Los Angeles for the reality competition.
“We have parents here that are missing work. We needed funding to actually donate to the parents. The Kresge Foundation really stepped up to the plate,” said White.
There also have been crucial donations from James Means of Redford’s Ways & Means Community Foundation and Chris Lambert of Life Remodeled.
In addition, White has been been contacted by corporations with Detroit ties about future support. His dream is to secure a permanent headquarters for the choir.
Whatever happens, he said he’s grateful for the love that’s pouring in for DYC.
“The main thing I want to let people know is we want to thank everybody in the city, the mayor, the city council, all the citizens — actually all the citizens of Michigan and across the country.”
At 4 p.m. Friday, WDIV- TV (Local 4), an NBC affiliate, will hold a homecoming celebration for DYC at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit. WDIV anchor Kimberly Gill will host the event and Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit Public Schools superintendent Nikolai Vitti are among those expected to attend.
White said the choir members will start working on their holiday show and upcoming appearances like Detroit’s Thanksgiving parade as soon as they return.
“Their lives have changed. They’re actually local celebrities now. They’re going to be known all over the state, all over the world…(But) when we get home, it’s going to be business as usual. We’ll go back to rehearsing. The train don’t stop.”
And the choir could be larger than ever in the future. “Actually, we already recruited some young people from metro Detroit while we were here in L.A.,” said White.
“When we get back, we’re going to integrate those kids into what we already do. We’re gong to create a DYC mass choir in the city of Detroit. We’re going to be seen around the world again.”
Like the song “Can’t Hold Us” says, this is their moment.
“This is DYC youth movement and I really want the world to know youth choirs are here to stay,” said White.
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or [email protected]
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