America’s Got Talent‘s 16th season got started with bang.
Judge Howie Mandel used the year’s first Golden Buzzer during the season premiere on Tuesday, June 1, awarding the honor to New York’s Northwell Health Nurse Choir. The collection of frontline workers performed an emotional mash-up of Bill Withers‘ “Lean on Me” and Ben E. King‘s “Stand by Me.”
Winnie Mele, a 64-year-old health professional, told viewers in a pre-recorded segment, “What makes this choir so special is, we’re all frontline nurses. You know, we’re not professional singers. We take care of patients.”
The 18-nurse ensemble then took the stage, and before they started singing, Winnie went on to tell the judges what they hope to accomplish during their time together.
“We know that there’s a lot of us out there that is still hurting,” she shared. “And we’re hoping to just shoot out some joy and some love, and to let them know that we found our resilience, and we’re hoping that they do as well.”
The performance clearly blew away all four judges, with Simon Cowell enthusing, “We need you, the world needs you. It’s going to touch a lot of people.” He added, “People are going to remember this audition—I’m going to remember this audition.”
Howie then told the choir, “One word comes to mind, and it’s heroic, in every way, and what a perfect song.” He then stood up and hit the Golden Buzzer, meaning this is the one act he is allowed to send directly to the next round.
As fans know, Howie has a solid track record with his choices. After all, his season 15 Golden Buzzer pick, spoken-word poet Brandon Leake, ended up as the season’s champ.
Check out the special performance in the above tweet.
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