Jackie Evancho's star continues to rise

| Saturday, April 9, 2011

After a flurry of activity last year, Jackie Evancho's life has gotten back into a routine.

Last year at this time, Jackie Evancho's rendition of the National Anthem stunned an audience of 40,000 at the Pirates' home opener.

Four months later, Jackie, who turns 11 today, stunned a television audience of millions on the NBC reality show, "America's Got Talent."

Jackie's first full-length album, "Dream With Me," will hit shelves and music websites on June 14, released by SYCO/Columbia Records. Tracks include "When you Wish Upon a Star," "Nella Fantasia," and the Broadway classic, "Somewhere," featuring Barbra Streisand.

Jackie, who lives with her family in Richland, even helped write the lyrics for the album's title track, "Dream With Me."

"I wrote down things that I thought were dreamy on a piece of paper," she says.

A professional lyricist took it from there to help produce the classical-pop crossover album.

Some music industry experts touted the soprano as a vocal prodigy after she belted out Puccini's "O Mio Babbino Caro," on "America's Got Talent."

"It's obvious that she's mature beyond her years," says musician Joey Granati, of Beaver County, who toured the United States in the early 1980s alongside Van Halen, Heart and the Doobie Brothers. It took years of performing in bars around Pittsburgh before his band -- the Granati Brothers, also known at G-Force -- signed a record deal with A&M.

Jackie's story is a little different.

"She's like a meteor," Granati says. "It's awesome."

Jackie's second-place finish on the show was a life-changing experience that's led to a national tour, a Christmas album that sold a million copies and a performance in Washington.

"It was freezing cold," she says, "but fun singing in front of the president."

The success of a debut album often relies on the producer, and Jackie is in good hands. Sixteen-time Grammy Award-winner David Foster has worked with Celine Dion, Michael Buble, Prince, Beyonce and Streisand.

"He's the greatest producer on earth," Granati says. "She's very fortunate to be working with that guy."

Foster explored the meaning of each song with Jackie and each step of the recording process.

"It wasn't just going in and singing a song," she says "It was a really fun experience."

On Jackie's website, Foster wrote: "Her natural ability and the depth of her understanding of the musical process left me speechless. I think we have created a musical experience that will thrill audiences of every age."

Record labels 30 years ago gave bands a couple of shots at a hit single, but these days it's usually one, Granati says.

"She's already defying the odds," he says of Jackie. "I think she'll continue to do it. She's one of those once-in-a-lifetime people."

A concert she performed in at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Fla., will air on PBS in June. Songs will include "O Mio Babbino Caro," by Giacomo Puccini and "Angel," by Sarah McLachlan.

But, when Jackie is not performing, her life, so far, is pretty much back to normal.

Jackie goes to school with her friends and enjoys sewing, playing the piano and watching television. When she's traveling, she keeps up with her schoolwork from Pine-Richland School District on a laptop.

Today, the family will gather at her grandmother's house for Jackie's birthday celebration, just as they always have done.

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