Whitney Houston, who died one week ago, is being laid to rest Saturday in her home state of New Jersey. In California, aspiring musicians are remembering the singer for her musical mastery and powerful voice. Students at the University of Southern California say Houston remains an inspiration.
Singer songwriter Brienne Moore, a second year student at USC, says the first record she ever owned was by Whitney Houston, and the music was always playing in her home.
“I just grew up listening to her. My parents always had her playing all the time, and she was a major, major influence,” said Houston.
Vocal student Lara Johnston said she is still overwhelmed when she thinks of Whitney Houston's voice.
“She has such an incredible [vocal] instrument, like she had this stunning power that would shock you, but she also had this real sweetness and gentle delicacy to her voice that her control was incredible,” said Johnston.
Lilliana de los Reyes is also studying voice. She said she was inspired by Houston's mastery on stage.
“The tone in her voice, she could take it to a whisper, and thousands of people were just silent, totally silent. So she could totally command a stage, and I admire her for that,” said de los Reyes.
But with fame came pressure, and Houston struggled with drug abuse. The cause of her death is still uncertain pending the results of toxicology tests. But those who knew her in her prime recall a consummate artist who was down-to-earth and a joy to work with.
Peter Baron worked at Arista Records for the legendary music producer Clive Davis. He oversaw production on Houston's early music videos.
“She was thrown into this world and thrown into the space of music videos and the space of being famous, and she just handled it like a total pro, sweet and nice. And I had never worked with an artist like that before,” said Baron.
The pressures on big stars can be unrelenting, said USC's Associate Dean For Popular Music Chris Sampson.
“The pressure of maintaining success, of really thinking about how you're going to continue to keep your audience, is extraordinary. And I do know that people feel that pressure and a lot of times, insecurities creep in and that's part of something that has to be managed,” said Sampson.
But Houston's admirers, like Baron, say she created a legacy as a towering talent.
“I call her the greatest voice of all. It really, truly was.”
Student Brienne Moore keeps practicing one of her favorite Houston songs.
For many in this new generation of music students, Whitney Houston remains an icon who set a new standard for entertainers.