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Dix Hills teen 'felt like a celebrity' after performing National Anthem at AFC Championship

Brandon "Taz" Niederauer, seen performing in December 2020

Brandon "Taz" Niederauer, seen performing in December 2020 in Boca Raton, Fla., played the national anthem at Sunday's AFC Championship Game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City. Credit: mpi04 / MediaPunch / IPx

Before the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City played football Sunday night, Dix Hills’ Taz played his guitar.

Taz is teenage sensation Brandon Niederauer, 17, who performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" before Sunday’s AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.

"SO grateful to" the Kansas City team, he posted on Facebook, "for inviting me back to perform the national anthem ahead of the NFL AFC Championship."

Niederauer, whose gig was feted on the Half Hollow Hills district school page, has starred on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s "School of Rock -- The Musical."

He got the nickname "Taz" from a music teacher who said that Niederauer's fast guitar playing reminded him of the Tasmanian Devil from the Bugs Bunny "Looney Tunes" cartoons. He’s also appeared on TV, including on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," "Good Morning America," and "The View."

Niederauer’s website includes a testimonial from singer-songwriter John Mayer: "Brandon is playing from pure, real ‘what’ and ‘how’ and intent and he’s going for it and you can hear it like music and ... dance to it. So, yeah…I dig it. I dig it. The fact that he’s young is secondary."

Last season, Niederauer recalled, he played before a cheering crowd of tens of thousands in Kansas City when the team was playing the Green Bay Packers.

On Sunday, due to the pandemic, there was no big audience in person, but the performance, like the game, was telecast everywhere.

"My phone blew up like crazy. I couldn’t even go on it. I was getting messages from everyone," he added: "I felt like a celebrity a little bit."

Sunday night's game delivered 33.01 million viewers in early Nielsen Live+Same Day data, according to deadline.com.

In a video interview in May with Newsday critic Rafer Guzmán, Niederauer cited his dad’s record collection as a major influence — 200 to 400 records, notably including Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, the Allman Brothers Band, Eric Clapton, plus jazz and more.

"The things that he was playing," Brandon said of his dad, "I learned to like and I love them still."

For now, Niederauer is back at Half Hollow Hills High School East — via Zoom.

"It’s just a total difference 12 hours can make," he said, reflecting on how he was performing before a national audience on Sunday and back on Long Island by Monday.

"At 7 or 8 p.m., I was watching myself play the national anthem on my TV, and then at 7 a.m. I was back in calculus. I’m still a normal person. I’m still a normal kid."

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