ATLANTA — Nyjel Graham has wowed Scotland County audiences for years with his virtuoso saxophone performances.
Now the rest of the country may get a chance to hear the Laurinburg teenager.
Over the weekend, Graham auditioned for the hit show “America’s Got Talent.”
Graham traveled with his parents, Vickie and Lenwood Graham, to the CNN Center in Atlanta, one of six cities where auditions were being held. The Scotland High School senior was among about 750 people hoping to perform before talent scouts.
“The wait time was something crazy. I stood in line for about two hours just to be able to get inside,” the 17-year-old said. “I had an amazing time while in Atlanta. I met lots of people who really have talent.”
Graham had up to 90 seconds to impress producers of the show with his musical talent. He chose to perform “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.
“I wanted to make a dent in the producers mind … to make the job easier. I want them to say I remember that guy from ATL.”
He will be notified at the end of this month if he will be moving to the next level. He could eventually play before celebrity judges Simon Cowell, Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum and Mel B. Premiering in 2006, “America’s Got Talent” has launched the careers of several performers. The season’s winner also gets a $1 million prize and the opportunity to headline a show in Las Vegas.
Before Saturday’s audition, Graham, who is often the featured performer for big and small events in the area, said he was not nervous about the audition possibly being his biggest break yet.
“I play in front of people every weekend. I’m well off at this point,” he said. “Auditioning for this show is pretty much taking myself to the next level and share my talent. I hope to inspire others.”
Graham, who picked up the saxophone six years ago, is a member of Scotland High School’s marching band, jazz band and symphony. He specializes in gospel, jazz and R&B.
Graham said being musically inclined runs on his father’s side of the family, but also gives credit to a higher power.
“My ability to play sax is a gift from God,” he said. “I went into the sixth-grade orientation wanting to play saxophone, now I see God in that choice.”
The youngest of three children, Graham plans to attend Winston-Salem State University in Winston-Salem in the fall, majoring in music and music business.
After college he wants to tour. He also wants to create his own brand of saxophones. His saxophones will be better quality than some on the market now but at a more reasonable price.
“My main reason is not for the money, it is a hobby. You don’t have to start from a big grand scheme of things. This is God’s gift and talent,” he said. “I am not doing it for money, I do it to inspire.”
Maria D. Grandy can be reached at 910-506-3171.