Beyoncé was an eight-year-old cherub when we first met. The year was 1989. I had just moved to Houston from Cleveland, where I had been a graduate voice student at the Cleveland Conservatory. News of my arrival got out: a new vocal coach who offered private lessons. One of the first calls I received came from a woman named Celestine Knowles, asking if I would be willing to allow her daughter to audition for my studio. I said yes, of course, I’d be happy to.
Several days later, Mrs. Knowles and her daughter arrived. The little girl, in a frilly dress and anklets to match, slowly breathed in, and then opened her mouth to start. What she let loose was one of the most impressive sounds I’d ever heard from a child. Something about it grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. The sound was molten gold, with a distinguished timbre. What’s more, Beyoncé possessed a seemingly innate, physical connection to the music. This was more than just a voice, I thought to myself, it is a spirit. She and I bonded instantly over our mutual passion for singing.
That day marked the beginning of a decade that proved to be as life-altering as it was fulfilling, for both of us.