Youthful singing competition 'Majors and Minors' premieres tonight: 'American Idol' vocal coach Debra Byrd dishes on what to expect

Majors-Minors-Brandy

Image Credit: Rob Naples/Hub

Television is already rife with singing competitions. There’s American Idol and The X-Factor on Fox, and The Voice and The Sing Off on NBC, to name a handful of the big ones. But you can add yet another to the pile-up of warbling contests: Majors & Minors, which premieres on cable’s fledgling The Hub network tonight at 8 p.m.

Naturally, Majors & Minors comes with a twist — and the “minors” part of its title gives it away. The show is focused on younger aspiring singers, in the age range of 10 to 16. But it does have lots of similarities to what’s already out there: A variety of celebrity mentors — from Leona Lewis and Adam Lambert to Jordin Sparks and Avril Lavigne — will show up to help the contestants through the series. Other celebrity mentors include Brandy (pictured above, working with the contestants), Sean Kingston, Mike Posner, and will.i.am.

Also helping the contestants is Deb Byrd, who also serves as a vocal coach to the contestants on American Idol and is a familiar voice here on EW.com. She happily touts the fact that her new show doesn’t kick off its contestants — all 12 stick around through the series, learning oodles along the way. “The mentoring of these kids is really quite fascinating because they’re such sponges. You get to see them grow before your very eyes!” Byrd marvels. “I think the buzz from kids is going to be something like, ‘Wow, I do that at home! I make up songs like that!’ I think kids will see themselves where they haven’t seen themselves before. What the audience gets to see is the process. They get to see the classroom that is like a performing arts school, but on steroids.”

Despite the fact that no one goes home, there is indeed still a prize. After 15 weeks, a “valedictorian” will receive a recording contract with RCA/Jive and an opportunity to be featured in a cross-country concert tour. “It’s like Fame, but more in depth,” Byrd continues about the series. “You watch this piano-playing kid, and then the whole lunchroom starts doing this whole lunchroom-wonderful song. But one of the things you get to see on this TV show is us creating this song and why it should go to this place instead of that place, why you should tell this part of the story or rhyme it this way. I think that’s something we haven’t seen on TV in a while.”

Byrd is immensely excited about the show’s empowering vibe. “Look at Glee, they’ve got their situations, and then they’ve got their costumes and the lights and the whole nine yards,” she says. “But you get a chance to see how we can empower kids. That’s my take on this. Kids hear so much negativity. But I would love for a kid to sit at home and see this show and go, ‘Wow, I may not be perfect, but if I keep working at it, I’ll be able to soar higher than I ever imagined.'”

And how does Majors & Minors stack up to her experience with Idol? The only departure, truly, is the age of the contestants. “Are they as talented? Absolutely,” says Byrd. “Listen, these kids on American Idol, when they were 10 years old, they were looking at American Idol, wanting to get there. So some of the kids are like, ‘I’ve been looking at American Idol since I was seven.’ It’s as if they were gearing up. These kids have been wandering around, waiting to audition for these competition shows, whether it be Idol or The Voice or X-Factor or Sing Off, you name it. These kids are at home honing their talent and practicing because they see what American Idol hath wrought. There’s no difference, other than their demographic.”

The no-vote-off factor adds to the chill, uplifting vibe of Majors & Minors, too. “I think they learn more — they have a longer time span to stay on the show, which I think is cool because it helps them develop their skills more,” Byrd explains. “Plus, there’s not that tension of, ‘Oh boy, am I going to go home this week?’ The kids benefit because they get to work with so many people over weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks. I love hearing the contestants say, ‘I didn’t even know I could do that!’ It puts a huge smile on my heart when not one, not five, not 10, but 12 of them say that to me.”

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • Sammy

    Sounds good. I’ll tune in.

  • Forwarddad

    enough with the copy cat shows. Why is it one successful show spawns so Many copy cats? 10 year olds should be playing not competing. What’s next infants singing?

    • Squishmar

      So if they were playing sports on a team and going to games every week and practicing after school every day *that* would be okay? This is their thing… it’s their passion. Nothing wrong with doing it now… they do it anyway.

      • whitney

        I practice basketball everyday its fun and we go to games.

    • Renee

      Why should 10 year olds not be singing and competing? Have you ever heard of Leeann Rymes or Suite Caroline who were both stars at the age of 13. Do you think these kids started singing just before they hit it big?? No this is a something they enjoy and as long as they can learn from it and grow , I don’t see what your issue is with it. There is a natural talent in these kids and if we don’t encourage it then we are waisting there ability to grow and learn and do what they like to do.

    • whitney

      what if you had a kid who wanted to sing more than anyone like them kids do? Would you tell them no and to go after something more realistic? That would break there heart. If your kid has a dream you should incourage them to go after them like these kids. I wanted to be an actor and a singer since i was six years old but i found out i couldnt sing so i want singing lessons. I told my mom i wanted to be an actor and a singer when i was six she busted up laughing and said thats funny you need to go after something more realistic and now im 15yrs and still trying to chase my acting dream broke as hell so its kind of a hard stuggle i get one thing for my birthday and christmas. Now how does that make you feel telling kids they cant have there dream? Uh? They know what they want and they are going for it and im cheering them on 100%!

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  • andreana cahue

    I like majors and minors

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