America's Got Talent Judges Wowed by Berklee Student's Audition

Kieran Rhodes's vulnerable performance of his song "Disengage" earned him multiple standing ovations.

June 23, 2022

During a battle with depression in fall 2021, Kieran Rhodes wrote a song called "Disengage" that he hoped would help him navigate a difficult period in his life. He didn't yet know that the song would eventually bring the set of NBC's America's Got Talent to its feet, from the packed audience to all four judges.

Rhodes had planned to audition for the show with an arrangement of "She's Got a Way" by Billy Joel, the artist who had originally inspired Rhodes to pursue music. But a few bars into the song, show judge Simon Cowell stopped the performance and pushed Rhodes to perform an original song instead. The resulting performance of "Disengage" changed the atmosphere of the room and won Rhodes instant fans due to his combination of talent and vulnerability. The performance even prompted the notoriously hard-to-impress Cowell to share a personal anecdote about his own struggles to make it in the music business.

I really do hope this audition can change your life.

— Simon Cowell

“You know it plays on your mind and you get depressed," Cowell said, recounting a story of being taunted for starting out at the bottom of the career ladder. "But I didn’t have the talent you got.... I really liked your original song, and I really do hope this audition can change your life.”

Rhodes, who is majoring in contemporary writing and production, got the audition with the help of Berklee's Career Center, which provides advising and programming services for students and alumni with a range of opportunities to help launch and build sustainable careers in the music business.

"I can't even describe what I'm feeling right now," Rhodes said after leaving the audition stage. "I'm so incredibly grateful for this opportunity."

Watch Kieran Rhodes's audition for America's Got Talent:

Before he was stunning the judges on America's Got Talent, Rhodes performed for Berklee's music and storytelling series, Two Track:

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