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Southern Gospel singer to appear on America’s Got Talent after 10-year wait

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT -- Episode 1706 -- Pictured: Ben Waites -- (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

NASHVILLE (BP) – Ben Waites, a Nashville-based Southern Gospel singer and vocal coach, will appear on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” tonight (Tuesday, July 12) at 8 p.m. EDT.

Waites’ performance has already been released online, garnering millions of views.

He told Baptist Press his journey to the show has been “a very interesting and wild ride,” and glorifying God remains the primary motivation for his appearance.

“At the end of the day I can only say that it’s a God thing,” Waites said.

“Everything that I’ve done my entire career has been so heavily oriented in serving Christ and showing the love of God to as many people as I can. I looked at this as an opportunity of reaching a lot of people that I probably couldn’t have on my own.

“I’m carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders over it, not in the sense of being overly nervous or caring about winning. That stuff doesn’t matter to me. What I’m more concerned about is appropriately and effectively showing the Gospel of Christ through this opportunity. It’s very important that I get that message across.”

The 33-year-old Waites said his journey to the show was a strange one. He first auditioned for America’s Got Talent years ago while a student at Louisiana Christian University (then Louisiana College), but was not selected.

Years later, Waites was not even intending to try out for the show, but a viral video proved to be his golden ticket moment.

Originally from Louisiana, Waites was back for a concert in the state, when someone filmed his performance and uploaded it to Tik Tok, where it received around 600,000 views in 24 hours. Producers for America’s Got Talent reached out to Waites about auditioning for the show.

“It had not even crossed my mind since my college days to do something like this, but God’s going to use this and I didn’t need to pass up this opportunity,” Waites said.

The challenges he overcame to appear on the show mirror those he has faced in his personal life.

Waites was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC), a condition that causes fixed or hooked joints throughout the body such as in the elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. But he said his family has always encouraged him not to let his disability limit him.

“It wasn’t really a thing growing up because it was just my life,” Waites said. “I don’t ever think about it just because each day is just another day for me where I’m using this wheelchair to get around or a stylus in my mouth to type.

“Growing up my parents and grandparents kept that same mentality in how they raised me. They would encourage me that if I wanted to do something then do it, and do it to the best of my ability. There were no excuses, and you would just figure out how to do what you wanted to do.”

Waites said during his years on the road performing, he has encountered many people with disabilities, including some with AMC, and he always tries to encourage them. He sees his upcoming appearance on American’s Got Talent as a new avenue for that.

“I’ve met others with varying disabilities, and some are just full of joy, while others have some anger or bitterness within them as well,” Waites said.

“If anything, I would hope that my life demonstrates how important perspective is. My mind always goes to Romans 8:28 and knowing that everything has a purpose. What I would hope my life demonstrates for others going through hard struggles is if your perspective is in the right place then you can persevere, endure and see it through to the end.”

For the past few years, Waites has also been trying to teach and inspire singers as a vocal coach. But his students aren’t the only ones getting inspiration from the lessons.

“You have no idea when someone walks in the door or gets on a zoom who is going be on the other side,” Waites said. “The people that I teach are all ages, all genres, all backgrounds, all walks of life and all religions.

“These people bring their life and their experiences to the table, and they are giving me just as much back as I’m giving to them. It’s a very enlightening thing for me.”

In teaching, Waites is carrying a torch passed down from his grandfather, who was his musical mentor. After Waites’ salvation experience at age 10, he said he immediately felt a “flame igniting in my belly telling me to sing.” His grandfather began working with him.

At first, Waites showed little promise. In fact, his grandfather even declared him tone deaf. But after a few months of practicing together, the youngster began to show signs of improvement, which he later attributed to a process called sound-color synesthesia, in which different colors are associated in the brain with certain audio experiences.

Waites said after years of vocal training, he does not have this experience as much as he used, but he tries to pass along everything he has learned over the years to his students. And now he’ll have even more musical experience to draw from.

“It is surreal,” he said of his appearance of the show. “And I even had quite the delay in originally responding back to them because I just was not sure if this was a direction that I wanted to go. My wife, grandmother and mom really poured into me that this is a really massive opportunity to reach a lot people with the message that I’m trying to spread. I couldn’t pass that up.

“The support from family and even those who have been commenting online has been overwhelming, and it truly means so much to me.”

Waites’ performance can be seen on tonight’s episode of America’s Got Talent, premiering at 8 p.m. Eastern on local NBC stations.