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Arts & Entertainment

Jackie Evancho misses home, is eager to win

| Friday, Sept. 10, 2010

Jackie Evancho is ready for the big time.

One song away from a $1 million prize and a U.S. tour, the Richland fifth-grader told the Tribune-Review on Thursday: "There's nothing to be afraid of. I'd rather be on tour than in school."

A tutor in Los Angeles is teaching Jackie, 10, while the Pine-Richland School District awaits a decision on her future education, said Rachel Hathhorn, director of public relations.

Evancho will learn Wednesday whether she wins the grand prize on "America's Got Talent." She performs one final time Tuesday against three other acts; the show will air from 9 to 10 p.m. on NBC. Part two is scheduled to run from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, when the winner will be announced.

"I have a shot, but not as good as everyone else," Jackie confessed during the interview about her stay in California for the shows and her aspirations. "I want to write songs in the future."

The youngster helped craft each week's performance. "I've been trying to establish a theme," she said.

She performed songs in Italian or Latin: "O Mio Babbino Caro" by Giacomo Puccini on Aug. 10; Andrea Bocelli's "Time to Say Goodbye" in her second performance; and "Pie Jesu" by Andrew Lloyd Webber in her third.

Pittsburghers are among those rallying support for the girl with an astonishing soprano voice whose popularity skyrocketed after her first television appearance. People who live in her school district are invited to watch the finals Wednesday at her school, Eden Hall Upper Elementary, where her friends, teachers and classmates will gather.

After a month of traveling to and from Los Angeles, living in a hotel and being told where to be and when to be there, Jackie's mother, Lisa, is wearing down.

"We don't know what we're doing on any given day," she said.

Jackie's father, Mike Evancho, and siblings will fly to Los Angeles this weekend to join the family for the finale.

"It's almost as if we're with them," he said, because the technology that helped Jackie land on the show keeps family members in touch: e-mails, texts, phone calls and conversations on Skype.

Autograph requests have slowed since Jackie's first performance, mostly because she and her mother do not go out in public often.

The young singer's upbeat personality isn't an act. She's chipper as always but misses her own bed and playing with friends because there's not much time to relax, she said.

"They said it would be hard work to do a television show," she acknowledged.

Backstage and at rehearsals, her competitors are friendly, and they sometimes share a swim at the hotel, Jackie said.

At the end of the show Wednesday, while cameras were still rolling, soul singer and finalist Michael Grimm leaned over to Jackie and said, "Welcome to the Top Four Club."

Grimm said he has become one of her biggest fans because he has "never heard anything like that."

Additional Information:

The other acts

The $1 million prize is one song away next week, but three acts stand in Jackie Evancho's way: Prince Poppycock, an opera singer with a grandiose sense of fashion and performance; Michael Grimm, a soul singer from Mississippi trying to support his grandparents; and Fighting Gravity, a dance crew of fraternity brothers who use life-size marionette strings and black lights for choreography that never touches the ground.

Part one of NBC's 'America's Got Talent' finale airs from 9 to 10 p.m. Tuesday. Part two airs from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, when the winner of cash, a national tour and a headliner Las Vegas show will be announced.

'We're average guys following a dream that no one thought was possible,' said Gregg Curtin, 22, a Virginia Tech student who co-founded Fighting Gravity. 'We thought we might make it through the first or second round, but the novelty would wear off, but we kept coming up with new concepts and new themes.'

About Jackie, he said: 'She's incredibly talented for her age. We're all very impressed by how composed and sweet she is off set. It's tough going against her. She's gotten so much coverage in the media.'

Grimm said he discovered soul music as a teenager. 'I was 17 or 18 and heard Otis Redding on the jukebox,' Grimm said. 'Then I got into New Orleans funk.'

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