Luke Islam, the 12-year-old singer who wowed the judges on "America's Got Talent" Tuesday and earned a Golden Buzzer to the live finals, says it was technique that allowed the Garden City South resident to belt out "She Used to Be Mine," a ballad of grown-up regret.
"Last year I did a 'Waitress' karaoke," he says, referring to the Broadway musical's occasional post-show "Cast Album Karaoke," in which audience members can sing a minute of one the show's songs, accompanied by the musical director. "I already knew one and sang it," he says of "What Baking Can Do," which the musical's producers have posted on the show's YouTube channel. "This is one of the first times I'd seen the show, and then I wanted to learn more songs from 'Waitress.' "
"She Used to Be Mine" became his favorite from the Tony Award-nominated musical, "and ever since then I've been practicing it." To enter the mindset to deliver the song with emotion rather than mechanically, "I think about how the song relates to me, and not to a person that would sing it in the show. I did a bunch of master classes and used that song and they gave me advice and I took it and I brought that into my emotion." He performed it for "AGT" in Los Angeles on March 4.
Born in Manhattan but raised since infancy in Garden City South, Islam is the son of Bangladesh native Mithun Islam, who grew up in Queens and is a co-founder and principal of the Manhattan-based expediter firm Outsource Consultants, and Rebecca Islam, a psychiatric health care professional from the Bronx. He has a sister, Victoria, 13, and attends H. Frank Carey High School, which goes from 7th to 12th grades, in Franklin Square.
Luke Islam performed for the first time at a preschool showcase, he says, but did not have musical-theater ambitions until after attending his first Broadway show, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," when he was about 6. "That first time I ever performed was really fun for me and I loved it," he says, "but seeing my first Broadway show made me say, 'I want to be up there. I want to do that.' "