Modern Vocal Training

Welcome To Star School by Debra Byrd

‘Welcome To Star School!’ is the perfect DVD to use when preparing for an audition.It’s jam packed with all the information you will need to prepare for, make it through, and recover from an audition. It truly is one of the best tools out there to prepare for something like American Idol or a theatre role.

American Idol vocal coach Debra Byrd has released  an hour-long information-filled DVD called ‘Welcome To Star School!’. In this DVD, you will learn the same things taught to contestants on American and Canadian Idol, as well as popular recording artists all over the world. 


The first thing covered in this DVD is warming up the body in order to warm up the voice. Byrd gives exercises to build breath control, stamina, and to wake up the body. An interesting technique of Byrd’s in this ‘waking up’ process is called “Pick ‘em up, put ‘em down”. This is a technique she uses to get you moving and ready to sing, and I found it extremely effective after doing it along with the DVD. The major point of the ‘Waking Up Your Body’ section is if your body is awake, your voice will be awake. 


The next topic is breathing. Her first student has a wide uncontrolled vibrato, so she gives her a series of breathing exercises to correct the problem. After some coaching points, the student solved the problem and was sounding much better. The coaching points in this segment can be used by anyone to solve all sorts of vocal issues, and to solve them quickly. 


Ear Training is up next. This is a topic that is often left out of vocal training products, but is one of the most important subjects for a singer to master. In this segment, Byrd is in the studio with a student who is laying down some vocal tracks. She gives him a lot of good tips throughout the segment, but the most important was to really pay attention to what’s going on musically in your track, and let that guide where you take your vocal. 


The next section is all about preparing for an audition. First, Byrd covers dealing with audition stress & nerves. Through interviews with a producer of American Idol and an American Idol contestant, you learn what it really takes to make it through an audition. Byrd then gives her students another group exercise like the “Pick ‘em up, put ‘em down” one before to loosen everyone up. She then works with a student who is so nervous, she forgets the lyrics to a song she knows perfectly well. Once again, through Byrd’s coaching points and advice, the singer is much improved at the end of the session.


Another rare subject covered is an approach to learning a new song. Most vocal training products pass over this, but it’s a crucial aspect to being able to go on auto pilot during a stressful audition or performance. 


In the ‘after an audition’ section, Byrd talks about preserving your voice through awareness and hydration. Following this advice after a performance or rehearsal will help you to keep from damaging your voice. 


The final section is the business of music. Following this advice will steer you in the right direction in this complicated business. Write down these tips and use them to help you accomplish your music goals. 


Short interviews with celebrity students and others in the business are shown throughout the DVD, and each interview clip gives some good advice. The people featured include Kelly Clarkson, Rufus Bonds Jr., Ken Warwick (executive producer of American Idol), Kimberly Caldwell, Zane Mark, and Anthony Federov among others. 


Debra Byrd (known as Byrd) is best known as the vocal coach and arranger for American Idol and Canadian Idol, as well as the show’s North American music tours. She was also tapped to be the vocal coach for the 2006 tour of High School Musical – The Concert and the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, My Grammy Moment Contest with Justin Timberlake.  

Byrd has worked extensively over the years, singing back up, arranging vocals and singing duets with Barry Manilow.   Likewise she recorded a duet with Bob Dylan on Empire Burlesque and has worked with everyone from Lyle Lovett and Roberta Flack to Bob Geldof and Patti Austin.  Byrd has been in five Broadway shows and received outstanding reviews for her role as ‘Da Singer’ in the national touring company of Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk.  Nominated in 2001 for a Black Theatre Alliance Award in the ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ category, she has served as vocal coach for “All My Children,” on ABC, Holland America’s Cruise Line shows, and can be seen and heard singing on numerous movie soundtracks and films.  

Byrd has taken her love of music to the next level with products designed for singers and musicians alike.  Her instructional DVD, Welcome to STAR SCHOOL© focuses on vocal performance and audition training.  Pocket Tones by Byrd are electronic pitch pipes that fit in the palm of your hand.  Both products are available at  Also, Byrd adds her words of wisdom in the foreword of the interactive Sing Like An American Idol songbook series from Alfred Publishing and in the book, Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul.

Her seminars, Welcome to STAR SCHOOL, have been well received around the country.  The popular seminars will resume in the Fall.

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