There may not have been an introduction to this America has talent season that has stopped hearts and dropped the jaws of the jury like that of Matt Mauser this week – when the 51-year-old Orange County musician and father of three humbly took to the stage on Tuesday and stoically said: “On January 26, 2020, I lost my wife in the same helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant. … It has been a difficult year, but here I am.

Matt and his wife Christina met in 2004 at one of his “dive bar” concerts, and she quickly became his “biggest supporter”. The two were married for 15 years and were both teachers, but when Matt, the frontman of SoCal Party The Tijuana Dogs and a part-time Frank Sinatra impersonator, stopped teaching to focus on music, Christina accepted a girls basketball job. coach at Mamba Sports Academy in Kobe (which has since been renamed Sports Academy). Matt has also been involved in composing music for a children’s podcast produced by Kobe, “The Punies”. Everything changed in an instant last year for Matt’s family and the families of the other six who were on board with Kobe and Gianna Bryant on that tragic day. But Matt, who started the Christina Mauser Foundation in honor of his late wife to support single mothers, women and girls in sport, tearfully told the AGT judges and host Terry Crews: “[Christina] would like me to continue. She would like our children to have happy lives – I don’t know if it’s possible, but I’ll try.

Matt then dedicated Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds” to Christina, with his kids standing backstage, and it seemed to take all he had to stay strong and powerful throughout the performance – which he did. almost did, until he bursts into tears over that last “Look at me now” line and walks away from the microphone. (He recently confessed Access Hollywood that he was initially “reluctant” when he received a call from Fremantle Productions inviting him to audition for AGT, explaining, “I didn’t know if this was something I was ready to do. I was nervous about it… singing in front of people, so many people, and really expressing my emotions. You know, if I sing a rock’n’roll song and it’s not really meaningful, it’s easy to do, but when you really sing and you sing with your heart, I was kinda nervous that I could collapse. “)

I will admit that first, I was expecting or hoping that Matt would let go a bit more and really tackle these American Idol– notes of styling power at the climax of the heartbreaking, Oscar-nominated power ballad; I felt like he was restraining himself, naturally, so he could stay in control in the moment. But maybe Matt didn’t need to pull out all the stops and the bells and the whistles and the smoke and the mirrors. Maybe less was more in his case. He simply told his story, humming Collins’ painful words as if they were his own; as one YouTube commentator put it, “He didn’t sing. He spoke to his wife through the song. He made it very personal to him and I felt it. He shared his grief. , his sadness and his loneliness. ” The perfectly flawed performance received a standing ovation.

“We felt your emotion. … There are no words to describe it, ”Howie Mandel marveled. “There was a different vibe in your voice, and when you sang it, it entered me. It was beautiful, it was sad, and as a man, as a strong man standing, it was very special, “said Heidi Klum.” Thanks for being here, “Sofia Vergara said softly to Matt.

It wasn’t the first time Matt had used music to heal and treat his grief. Last year, two and a half months after the accident in Calabasas, he and his elder Penny Rose released the duet “Green Bike” in tribute to Christina. Tragically, the father and daughter had originally planned to launch the song shortly after the Sports Academy basketball tournament on January 26. Penny was supposed to be in this tournament, but because she was sick Matt ordered her to stay home and rest for their next gig – and so Penny wasn’t in the helicopter with her mom that day. -the. The “Green Bike” music video, posted to YouTube in April 2020, was the last family video Christina participated in before her death.

This competition America has talent the season is packed with talented singers, like previous contestants Nightbirde, Jayy and Jimmie Herrod, as well as three big names this week: Madilyn Bailey (a young singer-songwriter who performed an original original with lyrics entirely made up of commentary haters of trolls online), Donovan Michael Hoffer (a self-proclaimed Broadway babe with a supernaturally high soprano voice) and Victory Brinker (a 9-year-old multilingual opera prodigy, this season 16’s answer to Jackie Evancho, who received the first -never group Golden ringing). But whatever happens next for Matt Mauser on AGT, he’s already a winner, because he accomplished what he set out to do, which is to make Christina and their children proud.

“I would like to make sure that my children see that – despite the heartbreak we have been through this year – this heartache is not going to define who we are as a family, and that my children see that you have to find the joy of living and you have to keep going, “Matt said Tuesday.” If this can help my kids pursue their dreams, then I’ll take it. “

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