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Speaking With ... Jackie Evancho 01.18.13



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♦ 7 p.m. Jan. 24

♦ Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan

♦ Tickets, $40-$150

♦ (312) 294-3000;

Updated: February 19, 2013 12:50PM

At age 10, she wowed viewers of “America’s Got Talent” by singing “O mio babbino caro,”the gorgeous and demanding aria — generally reserved for the most seasoned of opera sopranos — from Puccini’s “Gianni Schicchi.” But for Jackie Evancho, the haunting melody seemed to flow from her tiny frame with the greatest of ease and forceful precision that would make any diva stop and take notice.

Evancho told the world, in her performance’s introductory video, that she wanted to prove that “the best things come in small packages.”

She lived up to her vow, finishing the competition in second place.

This “small package” is now an international superstar, having starred in two of the most popular PBS “Great Performances” specials in history, and performing in some of the most iconic concert halls around the world, including Chicago’s Symphony Center on Jan. 24. Touring behind her latest CD, “Jackie Evancho — Songs of the Silver Screen,” Evancho, 12, is wowing audiences with her take on such iconic film songs as “Pure Imagination,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” “Some Enchanted Evening” and “My Heart Will Go On,” accompanied on various tracks by such luminaries as jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, violinist Joshua Bell and the Canadian Tenors. She also makes her big screen debut in Robert Redford’s latest film, “The Company You Keep” set for release in March.

The bubbly tween spoke to the Sun-Times about her life so far.

Question: How did you choose the songs for the “Silver Screen” CD?

Jackie Evancho: I grew up listening to a few of the songs. I wanted to do to “The Music of the Night” because it’s from my favorite movie [“Phantom of the Opera”] and because I saw the movie and that’s what inspired me to start singing. I also really wanted to do “Reflection” [from “Mulan”] and “Pure Imagination” [from “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”].

Q. What does it feel like to be headlining a world tour and playing these incredible concert halls?

JE: It feels really nice, actually. I know I’m not alone on the stage, but I’m independent. And it’s really fun. It’s always been a dream of mine to perform in front of people and have an orchestra behind me.

Q. Do you get nervous before a performance?

JE: I always feel nervous. It’s good to have those little nerves because it gives you a boost of [adrenaline] before you go on.

Q. Which type of music do you prefer to perform, classical/operatic or more pop crossover?

JE: I prefer to sing classical crossover because I feel like it suits me better. The mood of those types of songs feels better. But I like all the songs I sing.

Q. What kind of musical training have you had? Do you currently take voice lessons and how much rehearsal do you do? How much has your voice changed in the past two years?

JE: I never really trained with anyone. It’s pretty much just me and my mom. My family is very musical; we all have a musical ear. It’s easy for my mom to pick up what’s wrong and what’s right [with my singing]. I don’t practice very often because when I’m home I really like to spend time playing. I know music is my passion and I have to practice to make it better. I think my voice has gotten more mature and powerful. My octaves have gotten a lot larger; they’ve gone from an E3 to a D6.

Q. What kind of music do you listen to?

JE: I listen to anything that’s on the radio. I listen to everything ordinary little girls listen to. But not Justin Bieber. I like some of the Jonas Brothers songs. I also like Maroon 5. And a band called Nero because a lot of their songs have this driving bass [running] through them. My dad used to be a drummer. He started drumming because of how cool the bass sounded.

Q. You’ve performed with some of the biggest names in the business. Who’s been the coolest so far?

JE: I really liked singing with everybody that I’ve performed with, but I really loved singing with Sarah Brightman, and it was an honor to sing with Barbra Streisand.

Q. So what kinds of tips have you picked up from singing with such seasoned veterans?

JE: It’s really good to work with the pros because they have been doing it for a while and you see how they act with their environment. They seem so calm. You pick up this sense of strength and you’re inspired by that. They always say the same thing: Stay true to yourself. Never give up; people are always gonna try to push you down, but as long as you believe in yourself you’ll get somewhere.

Q. You did you first movie role opposite no less than Robert Redford in “The Company You Keep.” What was that experience like? And at your young age, did you know who Redford was?

JE: [Laughing] I didn’t really now who he was, but my dad told me he was in a [really famous] cowboy movie. It was really fun to do. It was nice to have a little change from music.

Q. Is acting very different from your music performance?

JE: It’s not very different from singing because you’re still taking emotion from inside you and showing it to people. ... I’d love to do more movies; maybe a musical. But for now my priority is my music.

Q. How normal is your life back at home? What kinds of things do you like to do when you’re with your family and friends?

JE: It’s very normal at home. I have plenty of chores to do. I mostly wash the pots and pans and clean my room. I really don’t mind chores. I like to do a lot of things. I like making my own little movies with my friends, writing poetry and sometimes songs. I like sewing and playing with my pets. And jumping on the trampoline. My parents do a really good job to make sure that when I’m home I relax and have fun.

Q. What advice to you have for other little girls out there who dream of a singing career?

JE: Never give up. And if you don’t enjoy it, let someone know. If you do enjoy it, always continue to follow your dreams.

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