Though the vibrant and attractive singer would have been mourned regardless of her profession, the sense of lost potential brought added poignancy to the death. So friends and family decided that the music should live on. They began fund-raising to establish scholarships for other emerging talents.
Last night, the first 10 winners of the Susan Chilcott Scholarship were announced at a ceremony in London. The youngest was Katrina Broderick, 23, whose award will help to fund living costs for the opera course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, to the eldest, Emma Gane, 31, who is a freelance singer awarded funds for private lessons from the renowned British singer Dame Ann Evans.
Placido Domingo, who had performed with Chilcott and is patron of the scholarship scheme, said she was a wonderful person who understood that success depended not only on great talent but on sustained hard work. "She was also one of the most generous and bravest artists of our time. I am delighted that this scholarship in her memory is able to support a new generation of talented singers as they receive the tuition and training that will help them to achieve their full potential. I hope it goes from strength to strength."
Jonathan Dimbleby, the broadcaster who was close to the singer in the last months of her life, said the idea had been discussed with her before she died.
"She was much too modest herself to have had the idea. But we're trying to honour her memory in a way that will give some point to the awful pointlessness of sudden death and will put her name to good use by encouraging and helping talented singers to achieve potential. She was a very understated but magnetic personality and touched people who heard her sing," he said.
Seventy applications were received for the scholarships, which were decided by a panel including the soprano Dame Josephine Barstow and Iain Burnside, the Radio 3 presenter and pianist who now looks over Chilcott's son, Hughie.
The recipients were seeking help for everything from language tuition to private lessons from distinguished performers.
Mr Dimbleby said: "It's a very hard graft being a singer. Quite modest amounts of money can go a long way to help people pursue a course they want to pursue or have lessons with a particular maestro."