Jackie Evanchos had a pretty remarkable career for someone whos only 12. After shooting to stardom with her operatic soprano on Americas Got Talent just two years ago, shes done sell-out national tours, released two chart-topping albums and one EP, has acted in a Robert Redford film, toured Japan and been in one of PBS most popular broadcasts. A gig singing with the Tacoma Symphony at the Puyallup Fair on Saturday night is just another drop in the fame bucket for this slim, blond pre-teen who has the poise and vocal depth of someone twice her age.
All that success is exactly what Evancho wants but it might not be the best thing for that rich, burnished voice that has gotten her there.
(This) is where I wanted to be, said Evancho on the phone from a summer tour. Im very excited about everything thats been happening. I cant wait to see what else is in store for me.
Youd be hard pressed to find any 12-year-old that wasnt excited about the kind of life Evanchos been leading since her YouTube video of Puccinis O Mio Babbino Caro won her an audience-vote place on Americas Got Talent in late 2010. Aside from touring, her EP O Holy Night and albums Heavenly Christmas and Dream With Me earned her top-selling status and a place on Billboard Magazines list of movers-and-shakers who are younger than 21. Robert Redford asked her to act in his thriller The Company You Keep, which stars Redford and Susan Sarandon and premiered Sept. 6 at the Venice Film Festival. Shes appeared twice in PBS documentaries, including one last month. They have been among the services most popular. And she has been called everything from angel to superstar by wowed listeners.
In conversation, though, Evanchos no diva. Articulate, friendly and candid, shes much like any pre-teen girl talking about what she loves and who she wants to be.
I love playing with my brothers and sister, and (in my spare time) I play violin, piano, cello and guitar. I taught myself to play by ear, Evancho said. I also like to sew clothes, pillowcases things like that.
Evancho tours with her mother and younger brother, doing her schooling online from hotel rooms. She likes hanging out at home with friends when she can. Despite the rounded voice and flawless diction that suits Puccini better than pop, she admits that, like most 12-year-olds, she personally (doesnt) like listening to opera, though singing it is fun.
I prefer to sing songs from the classical crossover repertoire, she said, talking about the upcoming Puyallup Fair concert. The show will feature movie songs from her upcoming album, Songs from the Silver Screen, as well as a few older ones. I dont care which songs, so long as theyre good for my voice, she said.
Chosen by Evancho along with her parents and manager, the selections include old favorites such as Some Enchanted Evening as well as more recent hits such as I See the Light from Tangled and Evanchos all-time favorite The Music of the Night. That song first inspired her to sing after she saw the Phantom of the Opera film at age 7. The Tacoma Symphony will provide backing music for the entire evening for a show thats a dream for both TSO and fair producers.
Its the kind of act that will attract TSO and other classical music audiences from around the area, parents of young aspiring musicians, parents who want their children to be young aspiring musicians, said TSO executive director Andy Buelow. Plus of course it will bring in the Puyallup Fairs core audience and fans who saw Jackie take Americas Got Talent by storm.
Whether all this gigging is good for Evanchos voice, though, is another matter. (Her voice) is very unique for that age, quite extraordinary really, said Barry Johnson, voice teacher at Pacific Lutheran University and a singer and director with Seattle and Tacoma Opera. Im interested in the technical aspect of what shes doing, and I have some concern for her vocal health. Shes creating an incredible amount of space to get that resonance, and I hope shes not pushing the muscles too much.
Likening Evancho to a child baseball pitcher who throws curveballs as fast as an adult, Johnson explains that the vocal muscles needed to create a voice as big as Evanchos are quite small and, while theyre still developing, easy to injure. Evancho also is not taking any lessons, saying she learns her singing emotions from her mom.
Its quite surprising to me how far shes come (without lessons), obviously just mimicking other voices shes heard, Johnson said. But that only goes so far with singing. After a while, you get into vocal problems and need help.
At least Evanchos avoided having to push for volume by using a microphone, Johnson said. He agrees that her voice really is quite a splendid sound.
For Evancho, everythings perfect.
This is exactly what Im dreaming of, she said. Its living the dream, and I love it.