Busta’s Person of the Week: Triad singer receives standing ovation on America’s Got Talent

Busta’s Person of the Week: Triad singer receives standing ovation on America’s Got Talent
June 23
14:13 2021

By Busta Brown

Three months ago, students at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro were in the university’s cafeteria enjoying their lunch and chatting about one of their favorite gospel groups. “I was wearing a hoodie with The Clark Sisters’ name on it and we shared the many songs we loved from them,” said Julian Kennedy. 

What happened next was the beginning of an amazing journey on one of the biggest stages in America. “After we shared the songs we liked individually, we picked ‘Name It and Claim It.’ We went to an area on campus near the cafeteria and then video-recorded ourselves singing the song. The cafeteria ladies yelled, ‘Sing, babies!’ We posted the video and so many people loved it! 

“One comment said, ‘You did The Clark Sisters justice.’ Days later, a producer reached out to us and said, ‘I think you guys are amazing and should go on America’s Got Talent.’ We put our money together and went to one of the auditions and here we are. It’s been an absolutely amazing journey. I still can’t believe all of this is happening,” shared the college senior. 

Julian’s amazing journey to America’s Got Talent almost didn’t happen. The story is bittersweet. “My senior year in high school, I applied at this one college and they turned me down because they said I’m not well-functioning. You’re not smart enough for this university. My GPA in high school was a 4.2.  My mom and I sat there crying and wondering what are we going to do,” he said. 

Julian was very emotional as he shared his testimony. He paused for a few seconds, looked at me and gave me a big, bright billion-dollar smile “Busta, you know me, so you already know that I have autism and Asperger’s syndrome.”

I’ve known Julian for over five years and he’s one of the most brilliant minds, academically and musically. He’s never made excuses for his autism, nor lacked confidence. Julian is also very respectful, humble and has a beautiful heart. 

“I have a word for those who are living with autism. Don’t let anyone convince you that you can’t accomplish your dreams. Never allow anyone to look down on you because you have autism or Asperger’s syndrome, or whatever you have. Always be confident and never look down on yourself. Keep your head up, because you are somebody, and whatever you choose to do, you will make. Never give up. I want my life to be a testimony and example to others living with autism or Asperger’s syndrome,” he passionately shared.  

Failure or quitting were never an option for this super-talented singer and musician. He auditioned for the general performance program at UNCG, but it didn’t work out. But his mother raised a true warrior. “I heard about the jazz program and I was like, OK, let me try that. I performed my piece, they loved it, and I got into the program and the university as well.” 

He sings and plays the piano and keyboards as well as the likes of Stevie Wonder, Joe Sample, or John Legend, just to name a few. So, I wasn’t surprised when the audience and all four judges, including Simon Cowell, gave Julian and his phenomenal singing group 1aChord a roaring standing ovation. I expected it. The guys did an outstanding gospel twist to Cold Play’s classic, “Fix You.” Simon said, “I felt like I was walking into heaven.” Howey Mandell’s response was equally as impressive. “I’ve never been to church, but I felt I have after hearing you guys.” 

My family and I were just as blown away as the judges. We were in our living room yelling, “Go guys! Go Julian!” I asked the High Point native about the superstar judges, if they were as funny and exciting as they are on TV. “All of them were absolutely amazing and extremely kind and welcoming. Sophia and Heidi were very sweet,” shared Julian. 

I also asked about his reaction when he first walked into the venue where America’s Got Talent is filmed. “It was so amazing! I’ve always dreamed of going to California to sing in front of millions of people, so when we walked into the building, I couldn’t believe it. As we stood there, it all hit me that this is really happening for us. God has delivered one of my greatest dreams. 

“After we performed and received a standing ovation from the audience and all four judges, I was so surprised!” he said with excitement. Now all of America knows the three members of 1aChord: Julian Kennedy, Tavis Cunningham and Christoff Hairston. 

Kennedy was seven years old when he learned to play the piano by ear, and only two years old when he sang James Brown’s revolutionary classic, ‘Say it loud. I’m black and I’m proud.’ “I sung the entire song! My mom was so proud of me! She yelled, ‘How did you sing that all together?’” he shared with a glowing smile. 

His mother, LaVonda Kennedy, is his greatest inspiration and number one fan “My mother has always been there for me and is my greatest supporter. Most people will say they support you, but then talk behind your back. And my mom is not one of them. Ever since she birthed me, she always believed I was going to be somebody special. She always told me I would go far in life. She’s also my biggest critic, and always gets on me when I’m wrong or singing off-key,” he said with a laugh. 

I asked Julian to share some advice for other aspiring singers and musicians. “It’s a quote that I heard someone mention: Fame is man-given, but talent is God-given. So, stay humble and grateful. Don’t allow fame to get in your system and corrupt your spirit. Never forget to give credit to God, because he gave you your gift. Never forget where you came from, but always remember your destination. My favorite scriptures are Isaiah 26:3 and Philippians 4:13.” My phenomenal Person of the Week is Julian Kennedy. Follow him on Instagram @juliankenn2. 

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