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American Idol vocal coach Debra Byrd will not take part in the show when season 11 live episodes begin airing next week.
Although the longtime advisor has been shown during auditions and the Hollywood Week rounds, according to show sources, Byrd will step aside for the rest of the season so that in-house mentor and Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine can bring in his own people.
“Her role has been diminished,” says an Idol insider. Associate musical director Michael Orland, who’s been with the show since 2002, and vocal coach Peisha McPhee, mother of season 5 runner-up and Smash star Katharine McPhee, will stay on and continue to work with the finalists.
Byrd, who has been a staple of the series since season 1 — and a beloved guide, therapist and sometimes surrogate parent to its contestants — tells The Hollywood Reporter that she’s only been informed that “we’re not continuing in the studio,” leaving the door open to future auditions and other Idol-related possibilities.
Idol season 9 alum Didi Benami describes Byrd as an “incredible, talented woman, soul and teacher,” adding, “She helped me capture the essence and attitude of songs like ‘Play With Fire,’ ‘Rhiannon,’ and ‘You’re No Good.’ I will always refer to Debra simply as ‘Byrd’ because when I hear her name it reminds me of when she not only helped us fly, but soar.”
In an interview last year, Byrd reflected on her decade-long Idol tenure, telling THR what she liked most about her job: “That I get to plant a seed of any kind in these people who end up having wonderful Grammy-nominated, Grammy-winning and Oscar-winning careers. I feel very grateful and blessed that I have had some input into all of that.”
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