Wowing a huge audience isn’t new for 17-year-old vocal wunderkind Christian Guardino. In fact, the recent “America’s Got Talent” Golden Buzzer recipient has garnered wild applause on television before, on FOX’s “Showtime at the Apollo” with Steve Harvey. On both shows, his spectacular, soulful voice stunned people, then instantly drew them in and compelled them to hop to their feet in a standing ovation when he was finished.
Another remarkable thing about the Long Island native teen (beyond his mad vocal prowess), is his humble reaction to such a huge, positive response. The dapper young man is super-talented yet seemingly unaware of how good he really is.
Of all the accolades he’s received to date, nothing can probably compare to the heart-pounding, tear-inducing, wish-come-true moment when Howie Mandel asked Christian that magical question at the end of his mind-blowing AGT audition. “If you could make one wish, right now, this second, to make something come true for yourself, what would you wish?”
His tentative reply, first, in the form of a question, “Right this second?” which prompted Howie’s serious “Yes” and Christian’s shy laugh after saying “probably the Golden Buzzer” made our hearts flip a little. There was no holding back tears when Howie delivered the biggest payoff possible, exclaiming, “Well your wish just came true!”
Howie smashed the Golden Buzzer, golden confetti poured from the sky and a Kleenex shortage arguably struck households across America. It was another unforgettable AGT moment. The stuff that dreams are made of.
Things haven’t always been easy, for Christian, though. He was born with a disorder which rendered him unable to see from infancy. Something strange, yet spectacular, happened during visits with a vision teacher at just five months old. Christian began to exhibit an extraordinary connection to music. He hummed along to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” which played on his teacher’s VHS lesson tapes.
His mom, Beth Guardino, was stunned by her baby boy’s amazing skill and she seized the opportunity to nurture his gift at that young age.
“Once I started to see that, whenever I would give him a bath I would use scales for him and I would just ‘la, la, la’ the scales and he would copy me,” Beth told AXS in a recent phone interview with Christian and herself. “It kept growing from there. He was just a little guy, a toddler in the back of the car and the radio would be on and he would be singing along to so many songs and I would be like, ‘How does he know these?’ It was really incredible.”
Christian couldn’t see, so he navigated his early singing performances with a cane. He remembers the first time he sang for an audience. “I went to this amusement park for a talent show and I performed there when I was six years old. That was my first time I ever performed in front of an audience.”
He made a bold, inspirational choice for his first “live” performance, singing Mariah Carey’s “When You Believe.” He continued to perform from there and his spirit was bubbly and bright. At 12, he made miraculous, significant gains in his sight via a special gene therapy.
Christian is still legally blind, but he has experienced some wonderful "firsts" after his life-changing treatment. “I’ve been able to see things I’ve never seen before,” he said. “I saw the moon for the first time. I saw stars for the first time and snow falling for the first time, and fireworks. I’m able to get around at night with my friends. I’m still learning how to use my vision.”
He’s pursued his love of music with great enthusiasm and passion. He entered the vocal competition at The Apollo and competed with Laura Bretan, who was Mel B’s Golden Buzzer on AGT last season. They tied for first place (after sailing through three rounds of competition), in the final round’s Super Top Dog Show.
After impressing rap artist Doug E. Fresh at a charity fundraiser, Christian was invited to perform at First Lady Michelle Obama’s Partnership for a Healthier America Fit to Celebrate Gala, opposite Grammy-nominated R & B artist and “American Idol” champ, Jordin Sparks. Christian was thrilled.
As for musical influences, Christian quickly named legendary, 25-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. “I look up to him so much. He’s like my idol because we both struggle in similar ways with our eyesight,” he said. “I love all of his music, so, so much and he’s somebody I want to be like when I grow up.”
Simon Cowell’s return to AGT last season prompted him to audition for the show, because he has always dreamed of performing in front of the renowned record producer.
“I always wanted to sing in front of Simon Cowell,” he said, “It was like one of my dreams because I feel like he’s so honest. He’s gonna tell me how it is, whether I’m good, or I’m bad. Luckily, he liked me.”
Christian met the music mogul outside after his audition. He and his mom were both impressed by Simon’s kindness. He said, “He was complimenting me and I was telling him, ‘It’s been a dream of mine to perform in front of you, because I agree with you 100 percent of the time. You’re so honest, I feel like you’re gonna tell me how I was, whether I was good or not.’ He was so nice. I gave him a hug.”
Their meeting also meant a lot to Christian’s mom. She said, “When Christian was so little, he would say, ‘Mommy, I wanna sing for Simon!’ I thought he was nuts! But, it came to be and I couldn’t have been happier with his response, his open arms to Christian and his compliments after. Meeting him was just incredible.”
Most of us won’t forget how nervous Christian was when he first faced Simon and the rest of the AGT judges. He admits he was extremely nervous and just kept thinking, “Don’t mess this up!”
We instantly rooted for him to crush it and anyone who watched him, knows he knocked it out of the park as soon as he belted the first, powerful opening lines of The Jackson 5’s hit, “Who’s Lovin’ You?”
In that magical moment, Christian proved he is one of a rare breed of singers who are visibly and emotionally transformed when they sing. Music flows through him like an electric current and the spark he ignites in the audience is reciprocal. He loves performing and most of all, he wants to inspire his audience and “make people feel happy” when he sings.
At this point, the bright, unassuming young man has plenty to be happy about himself. Christian was floored when Howie pressed the Golden Buzzer for him. But, it also helped confirm he’s on the right path. He said, “It honestly felt so incredible when Howie hit the buzzer for me. It just felt like music was really something I was meant to do. It was reassuring.”
Christian’s mom, Beth, has been incredibly moved throughout his entire AGT journey. She has witnessed an amazing growth in her son’s confidence and his ability to move around the stage while performing. He seems more self-assured and she’s so happy for him.
She’s also incredibly proud he has touched so many people with his gift. “When I see other people, especially audiences of that size, stand up as soon as he opens his mouth, it just does something to me,” she said. “To see him touch that many people and see that many people believe he is truly gifted, it’s surreal. It is confirmation that this boy was put on this earth to share his story, to share his miracle, to share his gift. It’s just been incredible.”
Beth is also touched people have reached out to her after hearing Christian’s story and watching his AGT performance. She shared an example of a woman who called her at work for help.
“She called asking me if I knew where to direct her for her two grown daughters who have children of their own but they’re losing their vision to a rare retinal disease. This is now turning into an outreach where I’m like, ‘Maybe this is really where we’re supposed to be. Helping others and sharing your story.’ The world is so dark today that any little light in this world, with all of the horrible things that we have to see on a regular basis, that’s what needs to happen.”
Finally, Christian imparted some important advice to anyone who is battling a tough situation and wants to make a dream come true. He said, “Don’t give up because of something that’s dragging you down. If you have something, whether it’s your eyesight, or you have a disability, don’t let that stop you from chasing your dreams.”
Follow @christiansings on Twitter.
“America’s Got Talent” airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m ET/7 p.m. CT on NBC. Stay tuned to AXS for AGT updates.