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Fanfare

Jackie Evancho's favored to win $1 million, Vegas show

| Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010

Penny Wippenbeck has seen first-hand how Jackie Evancho can cram for a performance and pull it off flawlessly.

Jackie, the 10-year-old Richland soprano who captivated the country with her performances on "America's Got Talent," randomly selected the lead role in "Little Red Riding Hood" last year when her fourth-grade class at Eden Hall Upper Elementary put on the play. Jackie memorized every line overnight.

"I never saw (a student) memorize that many lines overnight," said Wippenbeck, who taught Jackie last year. "She's a great student. Eden Hall would be at a loss if she doesn't come back."

Jackie, who received a standing ovation yet again after her Tuesday night television performance, is considered one of the favorites to win the NBC talent show and its prize of $1 million and a headlining show in Las Vegas.

The final four contestants will be announced on tonight's show, which airs from 9 to 10 p.m.

"I don't know what to say," said Piers Morgan, one of the show's three judges. "I've never seen a vocal performance like that on this show. I've rarely seen it ever."

Fellow judge Sharon Osbourne agreed, telling Jackie her performance was "heavenly. That's what it was to me. It's one of those performances that I will never forget. I will always remember this moment."

Morgan, Osbourne and the third judge, Howie Mandel, all predicted Jackie would grow up to be a world-famous singer.

"Did you ever swallow a grown-up• It sounds like you did," Mandel said as Jackie giggled. "You are just amazing. Words can't describe what we are witnessing."

While Jackie's father, Mike, remains in Richland with her three siblings, the fifth-grader is living in Hollywood with her mother, Lisa.

"I think he's very proud (of me)," Jackie said.

The 10-year-old rehearses several times a week with the show's voice coach, Yvie Burnett, and signs autographs for fans in Los Angeles. But her days aren't filled completely with singing, Burnett said.

Although the 10 acts still in contention are offered equal rehearsal time, not all need it, Burnett said. Some acts, such as magicians, need more time on stage. Singers rehearse just enough to be confident and take care not to tire their voices, Burnett said, without being specific.

"It's not about intense practice," she said. "She loves to sing, so it never seems like hard work."

Jackie said during a news conference with other contestants that she practices after she leaves the studio, but that's "my choice."

Afterward, Jackie enjoys swimming, Burnett said.

"I think she's going to win," said Rachel Hathhorn, spokeswoman for Pine-Richland School District. "I don't know why people are scared to say that. I guess some people are superstitious."

The district incorporated Jackie's success into Eden Hall's music classes, where students are learning the difference between pop and classical music, Hathhorn said.

If Jackie advances to next week's finals, the Kean Theatre at The Village at St. Barnabas in Richland plans to host a community-wide watch party, said spokeswoman Kathleen Brenneman.

Jackie performed in the Kean Idol dance and vocal competition the past three years -- twice as a contestant and once as a guest performer.

"This is our gift back to Kean Idol and the community," Brenneman said. "We're so proud of Jackie and excited for her. We wanted to bring everyone together and share in support of her."

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