By DIEGO JESUS BARTESAGHI MENA and LAUREN PEACOCK
Zac Taylor, a 17-year-old from Montclair, stood in front of Sofia Vergara.
“So, is this your dream?” The America’s Got Talent host asked him. “Yes. It’s definitely my dream,” he replied.
Taylor’s audition for the NBC talent show aired on July 20. He seemed to wow the judges with his performance of “Best Part” by Daniel Caesar. Taylor, a rising senior at Morristown-Beard school, performed the same song at the virtual Morristown Onstage contest earlier this year.
Judge Simon Cowell, known for his harsh critiques, said on the show he felt Taylor’s performance was genuine: “You’re very cool, very current.”
The audition gave Taylor a chance to move forward in the competition. Vergara, Cowl and fellow judges Howie Mandel and Heidi Klum convened at the end of the episode to determine which of the 150 auditionees they’d seen so far this year will move on to the live-show stage of the season. Just 36 will make the cut.
The grand prize for the live show stage of the competition is $1 million.
“It’s very exciting. We are so proud of him,” Zac’s mother, Joanna Taylor (herself a former singer), said in an account provided by family friend Amy Myers.
Zac Taylor had moved around his entire life, he told Montclair Local by phone Monday. He’s lived in Africa, Europe and both coasts of the United States.
But the teen said he felt prepared for his moment in the spotlight — he spends an hour practicing his singing every day after school. He was surprised not to be more nervous walking down the stage for the first time.
Instead, he said, “I ended up being more starstruck.”
Howard Taylor, his father, told Montclair Local the family always has music on, and is always singing.
Zac Taylor’s mother and school music teachers taught him how to sing, something he’d been doing from the time he was just a few years old. He sang in school choirs and in churches.
“Moving around so much has sometimes been hard for him,” Howard Taylor said. “Many new schools in new countries, saying goodbye to friends and having to make new friends. Signing and soccer [have] always been his go-to, his constant.”
Zac Taylor spent five days in Los Angeles for the audition and had to wait for more than two months to see it on TV. Every week, the family waited to see if he would be featured in the show, Myers said. And when they got the call, the Taylors hosted a viewing party with family members and close friends.
“We felt that it was awesome,” Howard Taylor said. “We didn’t know how much footage would be shown until it was aired, so it was great that the minute of footage included Zac singing and chatting with the celebrity judges.”
The teen was relieved and relaxed after the audition, his father said.
“We all screamed and shouted when he came on, and then we all started shushing so we could hear him,” Howard Taylor said.
The experience had been an uplifting one, Zac Taylor said. He made friends during the show, and remains in touch with one of them.
“It made the show really enjoyable since everyone was cheering everyone on and everyone was really supportive, which made it a lot better and easier,” Zac Taylor said.
Howard said it has been a privilege to see his son get this far in the competition.
“Many acts have been put through to the next round, and on the next show on Aug. 10, we’ll all see which acts the judges select to go through the next round for the live shows,” Howard said.
Also in the mix is Savannah Robertson, a 20-year-old singer from Pleasantville, New Jersey, who also wowed the judges with her emotional take on Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License.” She’s seen in the same official online clips of the show as Zac Taylor.
“There are many strong acts and some great singers this year,” Howard Taylor said. “Zac is excited to see how they do, and will do his best to progress as far as possible. His strategy is practicing.”
The young singer just passed his driving test. If he wins the grand prize, his father said, he’ll want to buy a sports car.