‘American Idol’ Winner, Iam Tongi Graduates High School, Delivers Unforgettable Performance At Ceremony

He dedicated the performance to his peers on this momentous day.


Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

June 13, 2023

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Iam Tongi; Photo via YouTube

American Idol winner, Iam Tongi recently accomplished another major feat in his life as he graduated from Decatur High School in Federal Way, Washington. In honor of this momentous occasion, he stepped in front of the packed auditorium to deliver a stunning performance for his peers as they close out their days as the class of 2023. 

KITV4 Island News reported on the events celebrating Hawaii’s own singer/songwriter by sharing a clip of his stunning vocals that came to life through a cover of “Don’t Let Go” by Spawnbreezie.

First, Tongi thanked all the staff members and teachers at the school for their support and dedicated the heartfelt cover to his classmates. He then explained that he chose to bring this song to the graduation ceremony because it’s the same tune that he got to perform on the Idol stage with the entire Top 12 contestants following his big win. 

“When I won American Idol, I sang this song as my last song and I want to sing it for you guys, cause we’re all winners today,” he said over the crowd’s cheers of excitement. 

He also brought this song to the stage during the point in the competition that brought the Top 26 contestants to Hawaii’s Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa.

YouTube video

Before the ceremony, he took to social media to share a few highlights from the day including standing in line with his classmates, all dressed in their caps and gowns, as they prepared to take home their diplomas. 

This performance follows Tongi’s recent appearance at a free event dubbed “19 Takeover,” which took place at The Valentine, a multi-level bar and music venue located on Nashville’s Lower Broadway.

On June 7, just one day before the kickoff of Music City’s annual CMA Fest, Tongi performed alongside former American Idol winner, Noah Thompson (Season 20), as well as Idol finalists (Season 20), Megan Danielle (Season 21), Colin Stough (Season 21), Haven Madison (Season 21), Fritz Hager (Season 20), Grace Leer (Season 18). The concert was organized by 19 Recordings, the label that partners with Idol to sign select contestants and the show’s winners.

Tongi kickstarted his music career when he first auditioned for the singing competition show with an emotional performance of James Blunt’s 2019 hit “Monsters.” Judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan instantly took note of his special artistry and granted him a golden ticket. 

Throughout his journey on Idol, he often reflected on the fact that everything he was doing was for his late father, who had passed away just a few months prior to his audition. Tongi also made it a point to keep his father close by performing with a guitar that he had previously gifted Tongi. This experience allowed him to connect with the audience through his incredible storytelling that moved his fellow contestants, and the Idol judges time and time again. 

In the end, Tongi faced off against finalists Megan Danielle and Colin Stough. During the star-studded finale, which aired Sunday (May 21), he used his final moments on the show to prove his already-established talent through several performances before claiming the ultimate title. 

Tongi sat down with Country Now following his win to share his hopes for the future and share some words of advice for any future Idol contestants hoping to follow in his footsteps. 

“To people that are thinking about auditioning, go do it. You could do it no matter what. Just go do it and just try your best. Cause that’s what I was thinking, like, ‘oh yeah, what if they don’t like me?’ And all this stuff. If anything, they might not air your episode,” he joked before taking a more serious tone. “So yeah, just go and do it and whatever happens, happens. Honestly, I wouldn’t have won if my mom never signed me up. You know, I didn’t want to do it cause I didn’t want to get embarrassed or anything like that and look at me now, I’m winner of season in 21. Yeah, you did it.”

IAM TONGI; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless
IAM TONGI; Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless

Along with his recent stop in Nashville, Tongi has already booked several more performances for the year including a spot on the lineup for Beach It!, the country music festival in Virginia Beach that takes place June 23-25. 

Then in July, Iam Tongi will return to Hawaii to headline the Ohana Day 2023 concert at the Turtle Bay Resort and take the stage at Reggae on the Way in Tacoma, WA.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.