Art & Entertainment, Culture, Feature Story

Anthony White– Choir Director of the Detroit Youth Choir– Talks ‘America’s Got Talent’ and Inspiring Detroit Youth

I have been keeping up with the Detroit Youth Choir’s journey on NBC’s hit show America’s Got Talent (AGT), and I am excited to see them compete in the finals! 

If you’re not familiar with the story, the Detroit Youth Choir (DYC) competed on AGT and received the golden buzzer. The golden buzzer is a big deal because one of the judges can simply send an artist straight to the finals! The artist doesn’t have to receive a vote from the judges if a judge hits the golden buzzer.

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — “Auditions 4” Episode 1404 — Pictured: Detroit Youth Choir — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

In the DYC’s case, it was actor and AGT host Terry Crews (Brooklyn 99, Everybody Hates Chris) who pressed the golden buzzer. Terry is also a native of Flint, Michigan and he was impressed with the DYC’s choir director Anthony White and the youth choir. 

“People like you are the reason I am where I am right now,” the actor said to Anthony during the AGT episode. “All it takes is one person to believe that you can do it, and you have that. And that’s more than so many people have on this earth.”

Terry went on to say to the audience and judges, “Every young man and woman on this stage represents me and where I came from. I remember sitting at my window in Flint, Michigan dreaming and wanting to make it and wanting to be here. And they’re here. And they did so well that I have to do this.”

Terry then walked up to the judges’ stage and hit the golden buzzer sending the DYC straight to the finals! It was amazing to watch and brought tears of joy to my eyes. I was so happy for them!

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — “Auditions 4” Episode 1404 — Pictured: Detroit Youth Choir — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

A couple of weeks ago, I caught up with Anthony to learn more about the DYC’s amazing performance on AGT. Serving as choir director since 2001, Anthony has a great passion for inspiring youth and teaching music and performing arts.

During our talk on the phone, Anthony talked about how meaningful Terry Crews’ kind words were to him and how the DYC is prepping for their BIG performance in the finals.

Jennifer Hamra (JH): I’m really excited for DYC! You guys did an amazing job. 

Anthony White (AW): Thank you so much!

JH: I can imagine performing on national T.V. is very exciting for the kids. How are they doing? 

AW: [They’re] very exhausted and we’re just trying to get things going because we have a lot more rehearsing to do. 

JH. What about you? How are you feeling about the experience?

AW: The experience was a great ordeal for me because when I’m thinking about all the hardships and all the struggling that our organization has went through– to receive a golden buzzer was so eye-opening. It proved that somebody out there cares.

Detroit Youth Choir
The Detroit Youth Choir will compete in the AGT Finals next month!
(Photo courtesy of the DYC)

JH: When Terry Crews had said to you all it takes is one person to make a difference and you are that person how did that make you feel?

AW: It made me feel that somebody out here is noticing me. For years, there’s been people [who have said] “Oh, you do a good job with the kids.” Or there’s been people that have pat me on the back sometimes.

But to have Terry Crews– somebody that I never met– say, “You are that man. You are that one guy to give all of those kids an opportunity of a lifetime!” I mean, it just really touched a chord in my heart. Even though it’s a week old, every time I watch the video it still strikes like– how can I say? It makes me cry (laughs).

JH: (Agreeing with Mr. White) I mean, it was a very profound thing to say, and it was so heartwarming to watch!

AW: Thank you.

JW: Why did the DYC decide to enter America’s Got Talent? 

AW: One of our parents– her name is Ms. Michone Jones– she approached me and said, “Mr. White, have you ever thought about putting DYC on T.V. with America’s Got Talent?” I’m just really concerned about rehearsing and doing little performances around the city. 

She said, “There’s an application online and I’m going to enter you.” And I said, “Okay, let’s try it.” She did it the first year. We auditioned twice– the first year was in Cincinnati and we didn’t make it. We only made it to a different level within the audition. 

The second year was here in Detroit! That was November 2018. When we auditioned in Detroit, that was our time to say: “This is our city, and if you’re going to come to our city, you’ve got to take us with you!” (Laughs.)

JH: Right! 

(Both laugh.)

Anthony T. White Detroit Youth Choir
Anthony White, Choir Director of the Detroit Youth Choir

AW: So Ms. Jones really presented the idea and I owe her a debt of gratitude. She has two daughters in the organization (referring to DYC). She had a son that graduated out of our organization and now he is in his third year of college!

JH: That’s great! How is the DYC preparing for the finals? 

AW: DYC right now– we are in really, really intense rehearsals preparing for our next hard-hitting song. We can’t really reveal the song, but we have some very good choices and I believe that America will like what we chose. 

JH: What made you decide to work with youth in the music field?

AW: My passion for young people stems from my own upbringing because as a child I was in different choirs around the city of Detroit. I was actually in the Boys Choir of Detroit and we were a branch of the Boys Choir Harlem.

And soon after that, I graduated from high school St. Martin de Porres here in Detroit. I graduated there and went on to Marygrove College and I got my degree in vocal music. The funny thing is, while I was in college, I was still director of the Detroit Youth Choir full-time (laughs).

JH: Wow!

AW: (Laughs) Yeah, I had a full-time job and I was a full-time student and also I was a full-time director with the Detroit Youth Choir.

JH: Wow! Well, I think that that just goes along with Detroit’s saying “Detroit hustles harder!”

AW: Yes! Yes! You know Detroit is all about hard work and grinding.

JH: I’ve been living here for four years now and that is one of the number one things that I’ve noticed about Detroit.

AW: Wow. Yes, if you live here in Detroit, you have to go hard. 

(Both laugh.)

Anthony T. White Detroit Youth Choir
“… to have Terry Crews– somebody that I never met– say, “You are that man. You are that one guy to give all of those kids an opportunity of a lifetime!” I mean, it just really touched a chord in my heart.” — Anthony T. White, Choir Director of the DYC (Photo courtesy of the Detroit Youth Choir)

JH: Why are music programs like DYC so important?

AW: Well, I believe that music programs like Detroit Youth Choir so important because remember there are young people out here with so much talent, but the schools do not promote that. The schools here in Detroit– they got to keep the kids in a little box, you know what I’m saying.

With the Detroit Youth Choir, we’re able to reach outside that box and do different performances that will actually become an asset to the young people in our organization. For example, we sung at Aretha Franklin’s memorial. That is a performance that I will never forget and the kids.

JH: That’s amazing! My final question for you is what do you want America to know about Detroit, particularly Detroit youth?

AW: I just want people to know that the young people in Detroit will never give up. They will never give up fighting. They will never give up dancing. They will never give up singing.

These young people can be somebody. Just know that the Detroit Youth Choir– we invest in our young people and we make sure that they are ready for the world. 

Special thanks to Anthony White from the Detroit Youth Choir for taking the time to interview with Good Life Detroit! Visit America’s Got Talent‘s official website to receive updates on the DYC’s next performance.


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