This has to be a first: when the “America’s Got Talent” finals air Tuesday night on NBC, two of this season’s 10 finalists will be Raleigh natives.
Both violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa and singer Christal Sanders Rheams are competing for the first place prize.
They’ll both perform on Tuesday night’s program, and the winner will be announced on Wednesday.
Here’s what you need to know about both contestants, how to watch the last two shows and how to vote.
Tyler is an 11-year-old violinist who attends Walnut Creek Elementary School.
Tyler is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was four-and-a-half-years-old. He underwent three years of chemotherapy and recently celebrated four years being cancer-free.
While he had cancer, Tyler said some of his classmates teased and bullied him and spread the rumor that his cancer was contagious. Feeling isolated and alone, Tyler took up the violin. He saw a flier for free violin lessons through an after-school music program sponsored by the local non-profit Kidznotes. During his first appearance on “America’s Got Talent,” Tyler’s mother, Kisua Butler-Figueroa, said once Tyler started the classes, he was “full of sunshine and happy energy. It’s like, oh my God, I got my son back.”
Tyler added: “When I play the violin, it helps me forget about all the bad stuff. I just didn’t want to be the kid with cancer. So now I’m the kid who plays the violin.”
In that same episode — Tyler’s first audition before judges — he was so impressive that judge Simon Cowell gave him his Golden Buzzer pass, sending him straight to the live voting rounds.
Tyler continued to advance through the next two rounds with votes from viewers.
Christal Sanders Rheams
Sgt. Major Christal Sanders Rheams (many of her Raleigh friends may remember her as Christal Sanders) is active duty military and has been a member of the US Army Band since 1998.
Rheams is performing on “America’s Got Talent” with the military quartet Voices of Service, which is based in northern Virginia. The group travels to hospitals to perform for veterans.
Rheams told “America’s Got Talent” that they work with a lot of people with PTSD, using music as therapy, but the group also stresses that they want to help all people going through a struggle, not just military people.
“Personally, we all have suffered our share of traumatic experiences,” Rheams said on an earlier AGT show. “You can’t do it alone, and music can help all of us heal. We’re here to spread that message to everybody.”
When the group performed the Wiz Khalifa with Charlie Puth song “See You Again” on the Aug. 6 show, the mic picked up Simon Cowell whispering to guest judge Jay Leno about Rheams: “She has an amazing voice.”
Rheams graduated from Enloe High School in Raleigh, attended UNC-Chapel Hill and has performed in theater productions. According to her US Army Band bio, she currently attends the University of Maryland. Her mother, Arlene Sanders, still lives in Raleigh.
The other members of Voices of Service are Master Sergeant Caleb Green, retired Staff Sergeant Ron Henry and Sergeant First Class Jason L. Hannah.
What does the winner get?
In years past, the winner of “America’s Got Talent” got a $1 million prize (subject to taxes and paid out over time) and got to headline a tour or a show in Las Vegas.
Information on the NBC website only mentions the $1 million prize this year, but NBC has confirmed to us that the winner will also headline the “America’s Got Talent Live” stage show November 7 – 10 at the Paris Theater at Paris Las Vegas.
When to watch
The two-night finale airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 17) on NBC with the winner announced at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
How to vote
There are three ways to vote: online at the NBC website, through the AGT mobile app and through the X-Finity set-top box.
The AGT app: The free app works on Apple iOS and Android devices, but you’ll need to create an NBCUniversal profile (if you don’t already have one) using your Facebook or Google credentials, or with an email address.
Online: You can also vote directly from the “America’s Got Talent” page on the NBC website at nbc.com/AGTVote.
As with the app, you’ll need to register with NBCUniversal (but you only need to register once — your credentials should work for both platforms). You can also sign in using Facebook or Google credentials.
X-Finity: There’s a third way to vote, but you have to have an X-Finity X1 set-top box, X-Finity remote and an active X-Finity subscription that includes NBC.
The voting window is open from 8 p.m. Tuesday until 7 a.m. Wednesday (ET). The exception is for X-Finity voters — they can vote between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday.
You can see the full rules at NBC.com.