Debra Byrd - Vocal Coach
From working with some of the world's best-known recording artists, singing on numerous movie soundtracks and lending voiceovers on commercials, to voice coaching television and movie personalities and her roles in five Broadway shows, it is no wonder Debra Byrd was tapped to be the vocal coach for American Idol, American Juniors and now Canadian Idol.
Byrd brings her expertise and knowledge of an industry (that is not always kind) to groups of young competitors. Her advice is golden. Byrd is definitely the word.
Byrd not only helps the "future Idols" perform and arrange their music selections, she is a mentor to the competitors who guides them as they transform from unknown amateurs to pop idols performing for millions each week.
"To become the Canadian Idol, you have to have more than a good voice," said Byrd. "You need to have presence and understand what you're singing."
Whether it is a face covered by the mic, darting eyes, flailing arms or singing songs in the wrong key, Byrd's words of wisdom have been more influential in finding the next Idol than audiences realize – just ask Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard or Fantasia Barrino. Listen for Byrd on all backup vocals on American Idol and American Juniors as well.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio to a musical family, Byrd studied piano at an early age and studied opera for eight years beginning at age 12. Additionally, as a teenager, she belonged to two church choirs, a band by the time she was 16, and narrated children's concerts for the Cleveland Orchestra. At the world-renowned Karamu Theatre, she received her training in acting and improv while also serving as musical director there as well as at the E. Cleveland and Dobama Theatres.
Byrd had what it took to be a Broadway star – which meant she had to move to New York. Soon after arriving, she answered an ad that said: "Manilow Needs Girls." After being hired, she became part of Manilow's featured back-up group, Lady Flash, on tour. Signed to RSO Records, Byrd served as Manilow's vocal arranger and became the opening act for his 1993 international your. In addition, Byrd has been the vocal coach for ABC's All My Children, various feature films, Broadway shows and Holland America's Cruise Line shows. Byrd tutors private students and teaches voice at the performing arts school All About Kids.
As an actor, she starred most recently as "Da Singer" in the critically-acclaimed national touring company of Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. Byrd has appeared on Broadway in The Human Comedy, Barry Manilow on Broadway, Haarlem Nocturne and both the national tour and Broadway's Ain't Misbehavin'.
Byrd has toured, recorded and/or appeared on video with The Eurythmics, Bob Dylan, UB40, Lyle Lovett, Roberta Flack, Patti Austin, and Bob Geldof, to name a few.
Her voice can be heard on movie soundtracks such as, Deliver Us From Eva, Dr. T and His Women, Sister Act 2, Two Can Play That Game and First Wives Club. Along with voiceover and commercial work, she has appeared on the MTV Awards, The Grammys and practically every late night talk show. Her book, Vocal Help Now!, will be released soon.
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