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Jennifer Hudson Posts Tribute to Late American Idol Vocal Coach Debra Byrd: ‘She Will Be Dearly Missed’

Longtime American Idol vocal coach Debra Byrd passed away this week, and some of the singing competition’s biggest luminaries are paying tribute to her legacy.

Byrd — who died on Tuesday at the age of 72, according to our sister site Deadline — served as the vocal coach on American Idol for its first 10 seasons on Fox, mentoring future superstars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson. (Byrd also worked on NBC’s The Voice and toured with Barry Manilow.) Hudson was among the Idol alums to mourn the loss of Byrd.

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“Heartbroken over the passing of Debra Byrd, the vocal coach on American Idol,” Hudson, who competed in Season 3 of Idol, posted on Instagram. “She encouraged and supported us from the very beginning! I am so grateful for everything she taught us. She will be dearly missed, but her legacy lives on through the music of countless artists she influenced during her lifetime. Rest in peace, Debra.”

Clay Aiken, who placed second behind Ruben Studdard in American Idol’s sophomore season, released a statement as well: “I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that no one was a better mentor, coach, teacher, or champion to us Idol contestants than Byrd was. No one spent more time with us. I’ll never forget her drilling into us how we needed to look right into the camera and connect with the audience at home. She was a light in so many lives. I am so lucky that I got to call her a friend.”

Melinda Doolittle, who finished third in Idol’s sixth season, also shared her own tribute to Byrd: “She expertly got me through mental blocks, key choices, song choices, and everything else I walked into her practice room carrying. I couldn’t have done it without Debra Byrd… Byrd, what you gave is immeasurable. You have always been the most amazing gift. What you poured into so many will always remain. I can still hear your voice coaching me when I go to sing certain songs. You will be so missed. Rest in sweet peace.”

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