"It means a lot to be Simon's Golden Buzzer," violinist Tyler Butler-Figueroa told PEOPLE
The 11-year-old violinist, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 4½ years old and had been bullied for losing his hair during chemotherapy, advanced to the next round of competition on Wednesday after impressing the judges with his stellar rendition of “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia during the quarterfinals round.
“He’s a great kid,” Cowell said of the young star’s performance, adding that he was “probably” the best act of the night. “That’s the act that everyone will be rooting for.”
The longtime judge and executive producer further praised the North Carolina native, adding that he “stood out in the low moments” among a few “terrible” acts.
“It means a lot to be Simon’s Golden Buzzer,” Tyler told PEOPLE. “It’s hard to convince him so to get his Golden Buzzer means a lot.”
It was a tough night for some contestants as Cowell’s tough-love style of comments had two child acts in tears after their performances.
“I don’t feel great about that,” the father of one said about watching dance troupe Light Balance Kids and singer Charlotte Summers cry on stage.
“But at the same time, I can’t look at someone, regardless of their age, and lie to them and say that was a wonderful song choice or that audition was better than the one before because what’s the point of having judges,” Cowell shared. “It’s mentally positive criticism.”
Dance troupe V. Unbeatable (who are Dwyane Wade’s Golden Buzzer choice), Light Balance Kids (who are Ellie Kemper’s Golden Buzzer choice), singer Robert Finley, comedian Ryan Niemiller and Ndlovu Youth Choir also advance to the semifinals. Singer Chris Kläfford was named the Dunkin’ Save contestant.
America’s Got Talent airs Tuesdays and Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on NBC.