Detroit Youth Choir takes second in 'America's Got Talent' final

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
Detroit Youth Choir.

The Detroit Youth Choir's high hopes of winning it all in the "America's Got Talent" finale fell just short Wednesday but they may have walked away with something worth even more than $1 million: national recognition.

The 52-member choir finished second, ending a dynamic run that began in June and captured the hearts of not just Metro Detroiters but the nation.

In the end, Kodi Lee, a 23-year-old singer and musician from California who is blind and has autism, won it all, beating out the choir and the other acts that performed in Tuesday's finals. He'll win $1 million and a brief Las Vegas residency.

Choir members gripped hands and hugged one another as the winner was announced Wednesday. 

Choir director Anthony White on Tuesday called his choir "fearless" and said they embodied just how tough Detroiters are.

"We have a lot of fight in us, we have a lot of grit, we have a lot of determination," said White.

That grit showed as the choir wowed audiences and judges alike during the competition, performing hits by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Carrie Underwood and Panic! At The Disco. The group made an impression from the start, earning a golden buzzer from host Terry Crews after their first performance in June.

A choir has never won "America's Got Talent," but White thought this group could change that.

Detroit figured prominently during the season as the choir often mentioned how proud they were to be representing the city. On Wednesday, the group wore hoodies with "Detroit" in bold, red letters on the front.

"We love our city and we're so glad we can make them proud," said one choir member.

 It appears, though, that the celebration for the kids is just beginning.

On Friday, WDIV Detroit (Channel 4), along with the city of Detroit and the Downtown Detroit Partnership, will host a homecoming celebration for the choir's singers, director Anthony White and the rest of the choir's team at Campus Martius Park. The event starts at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

The 52-member choir capped off a dazzling run on the NBC competition"America's Got Talent" with a show-stopping performance during the show's finals of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Can't Hold Us," the same song they performed during their first appearance on the show.

The celebration will be hosted by WDIV's Kimberly Gill and will include Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Downtown Detroit Partnership CEO Eric Larson, Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti and WDIV Vice President and general manager Marla Drutz.

The choir also will perform in America's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit.

Duggan congratulated the choir on Twitter on Wednesday, calling them "true winners."

"You inspired a country — and left our city with memories that will last forever!" said Duggan.

On Tuesday, White, who hopes to one day have a building for his choir with the group's logo on the front, said he believes the reason the choir resonated with so many is because his kids are like the average young person.

"There are no egos, all of our kids are good kids," said White.

Summing up the whirlwind run, Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist offered this Wednesday night on Twitter:

"Your story is our story, and we are so proud of you. You will always be champions."