Military Father Reunites With 15-Year-Old Daughter On ‘American Idol’: Watch The Emotional Moment Unfold

“Oh my God, dad! What the actual heck?” Kaylin said in a state of shock.

By

Andrew Wendowski

Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

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Posted on February 26, 2023

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Kaylin Hedges; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC

Kaylin Hedges may be only 15 years old, but her vocal abilities extend far beyond her age. Her American Idol audition proves just that as she was awarded the rare Platinum ticket following her cover of Lonestar’s “Already There.” 

Hedges, who is currently a high school student in New York, discovered her love for music at a young age. 

“I loved music ever since I was tiny [and] I used to si​​ng at all the county fairs and stuff and from that I started like discovering… I was like ‘oh, I really like this,’” she recalled. “My parents took notice of that and they started to notice how many opportunities were in places like New York and they were like ‘how do we get there?’”

Hedges explained that her dad decided to make a sacrifice so that she could attend school in New York. 

“And then my dad came home one day and was like ‘I got a way that we can get there,’ but that means I have to deploy. It was really scary because he had to deploy to like dangerous places in order for me to be able to pursue music in New York, where I got to do all these school musicals and plays and stuff, but he did and we got there,” Hedges said. 

Due to his extended deployment, her father had to miss out on many life milestones. 

“I don’t get to see my dad very often physically, like in person. He’s had to miss a lot of things… He has missed my birthday nine years in a row. It can be hard, but it’s okay. He’s coming back next year, so, it’ll be okay,” she acknowledged. 

“If he could be here right now, he would be so proud of you,” Kaylin’s mom, Hailey, told her. “You got this!”

“Getting a golden ticket would just solidify all the sacrifices weren’t for nothing. It would mean a lot, crossing all my fingers and toes,” Hedges shared before her audition. 

While chatting with the panel of judges, Hedges told Perry that her father was her biggest inspiration and dedicated her performance to him.  

“He’s in the military, so he’s stationed overseas. He like inspires me so much. I love him. I do miss him.”

“I’m sure he has sacrificed a lot and we thank him for him service,” Katy Perry replied. 

For her audition, Kaylin Hedges sang Lonestar’s 2001 smash, “I’m Already Here.” 

“I’m going to sing a song that actually to him. It’s just a song that kind of explains everything that has happened, like with us being so far away and stuff. So I just relate to it a lot,” Hedges told the judges. 

Joined by an acoustic guitarist, Hedges delivered an impressive rendition of the six-week chart-topper. She even earned a standing ovation from the judges. 

“15, I don’t believe it!” Lionel Richie exclaimed, referring to her age. 

“That big ol’ voice in that small body,” Perry applauded. 

Luke Bryan agreed. “You did a great job. You’re 15 and to be navigating like you are… You really… To navigate your falsettos and then I got a little scared because you were using falsetto a lot, but then I was like ‘oh my gosh she’s not going to be able to go big…’ oh, she just went big. She’s got a big voice.”

Before casting their votes to decide whether or not Kaylin Hedges would advance to Hollywood, the judges had a surprise for her. 

“You know, before we do a vote, your dad… he sent in a message that he wanted you to hear,” Perry said as she asked the contestant to come closer to view a video on an iPad. 

Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Hedges appeared on the screen. 

“Hey Kaylin this is your dad, I miss you so much, I wanted to tell you that I have nothing but pride and admiration for you,” he said. “I know I missed many of holidays and birthdays and major life events for you, but I just want you to know that no matter where I am, I am already there… just take a look.”

The judges then asked Kaylin Hedges to take a look around and her dad walked out from behind the scenes. 

Kaylin was clearly shocked as she shouted, “Oh my God, dad! What the actual heck?”

Kaylin Hedges; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC
Kaylin Hedges; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC

“That’s what mom was whispering about… I knew she was whispering about something,” Kaylin told the judges. 

“No, she doesn’t know,” Bryan revealed

Perry told her that her mom had “no idea.” 

Moments later, Kaylin brought her mother into the room and her dad surprised her as well. To make the moment even sweeter, the judges surprised her with a platinum ticket. 

“I mean, you’re 15 years old singing like [Barbra] Streisand,” Lionel Richie said. 

American Idol airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.

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Written by

Andrew Wendowski is the Founder and CEO of Music Mayhem. As a 29-year-old entrepreneur, he oversees content as the Editor-In-Chief for the independent brand. Wendowski, who splits time between Philadelphia, Penn., and Nashville, Tenn., has an extensive background in multimedia. Before launching Music Mayhem in 2014, he worked as a highly sought-after photojournalist and tour photographer, collaborating with such labels as Interscope Records and Republic Records. He has captured photos of some of the biggest names, including Taylor Swift, Metallica, Harry Styles, P!NK, Morgan Wallen, Carrie Underwood, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Shania Twain, and hundreds more. Wendowski’s photos and freelance work have appeared nationwide and can be seen everywhere from ad campaigns to various publications, including Billboard and Rolling Stone. When Wendowski isn’t running Music Mayhem, he enjoys spending time at concerts, traveling, and capturing photos.

See more posts from Andrew Wendowski