The sounds of the violin waft through the air on Davie Street in downtown Raleigh.
Songs drift from classical to pop to country and even some hip-hop as violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa entertains the lunch crowd. The 11-year-old musician is tracked out of his year-round school, Walnut Creek Elementary in Raleigh, and taking advantage of the fall weather to raise money for a chance to audition on “America’s Got Talent” in Charlotte in December.
Tyler is a cancer survivor after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 4. After three years of chemotherapy, he is in remission.
“I like playing the violin — it inspires me to play music for other children with the same story as me,” Tyler says, as he takes a short break during his 90-minute set. “I’m proud to be here street performing and I want to show other kids they can do what their heart tells them what to do.”
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His mother, Kisua Butler-Figueroa, sits nearby as Tyler plays songs through an amplified speaker, his violin case open and waiting for donations from passersby.
“Tyler was trained in the classical school but decided he wanted to build on top of what he learned so he now plays pop, classical, gospel, country and hip hop,” his mom said.
Tyler says his favorite genre is pop. “It’s upbeat and I can move to the song.”
Assisting Tyler in his quest to make it to Charlotte is his little brother Adam, 6, who brings his brother water and at times throws down some dance steps.
When he’s not dancing, Adam’s head bobs with the music, as do the heads of those passing by.