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Little girl from Pine carries big voice to Vegas

| Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2008

Jackie Evancho loves to sing -- it doesn't matter if it's in the shower, in the car or in her bedroom.

But this weekend, the 8-year-old's audience will be worldwide as she competes in the 15th U.S.A. World Showcase Talent Competition in Las Vegas.

The competition pits 140 unsigned musicians against one another to compete for a $100,000 grand prize and the chance to create a demo CD.

Hundreds of thousands of hopefuls applied, said Jennifer Moore, head casting director of U.S.A. World Showcase.

Jackie, a third-grader at Hance Elementary in the Pine-Richland School District, said she is most excited about the opportunity to travel and perform in front of a large audience. In April, she placed first-runner up in the Kean Idol competition singing "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from Phantom of the Opera.

"The very first time I listened to it, I loved it and wanted to be an opera singer," Jackie said.

This weekend, she'll sing "Ave Maria," "River of Dreams" and "O Mio Babbino Caro," an aria from the opera "Gianni Schicchi."

All three are tall orders for Jackie, who stands just above 4 feet, but she carries a big voice.

"We've had tons of success stories from last year, and I think she'll be one of those success stories from this year," Moore said.

Jackie is a member of the Children's Festival Chorus, has taken part in musical workshops in the North Hills and volunteers her time singing at churches and for residents of local nursing homes.

One one of the biggest challenges, she said, is remembering all of the song lyrics and melodies, so she practices on her own and with her voice teacher, Sharon Pritchard of Ross.

"We are just so proud," said Jackie's mother, Lisa Evancho of Pine. "We're just in awe that such a little girl can produce such an impressive sound."

Evancho said she hopes singing will continue to be fun for her daughter so Jackie will want to make it part of her life for a long time.

"Voices like this come along very infrequently," Evancho said. "It's truly a gift and would be a waste not to use it."

Pritchard said Jackie has grown in the few months they have worked together and wants to continue to help Jackie take care of and strengthen her voice.

"I think she'll continue ... to showcase her talent," Pritchard said. "She'll definitely make her mark. I always say, 'Save a front-row seat for Mrs. Pritchard.' "

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