Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Zing!

It would be understatement to suppose that I hit a nerve with my most recent post, where I reacted rather strongly to Jackie Evancho’s singing. Clearly, I got under a few people’s skins; and this isn’t my usual tactic.  Neither is coming right back with an instant, knee-jerk response to a comment or two. But, here we are.

So, okay … I’m always open to the possibility that I got it wrong.

And certainly I’ve looked back at some of my posts here and thought, unaided by outside suggestion, “…my God, how self-absorbed did THAT sound??” Very. (On the other hand, if you can’t express your inner egotist in your own blog, where can you?)

Some of the comments in reply to that post have been thoughtful, and caused me to pause and think hard; and you can read them below that post. A handful of others … well, I don’t see the productivity of name-calling, so I didn’t approve those comments for display. “Idiot” I can handle, just as well as I handled it on the playground in third grade; the more crude stuff, well … the English language has hundreds of thousands of words in it, many of which are just as effective but so much more printable.

But, upon reading the occasional gentle epithet coming toward me, I did wonder how much of that sort of thing I really did level at Ms. Evancho, or anyone else, in that piece. Worth a look. So I went back and read the thing again, this time playing the part of someone outside my own head. It’s good for a fella, on occasion.

 

The main questions that I wanted to answer, to my own satisfaction (aside from the question of self-absorption, which I think I already took care of, above), were:

[1] Did I unjustly criticize a young musician? Most of the music teachers with whom I’ve studied have been very good at constructive criticism; and the ones I didn’t care for so much seemed adept at making the criticism cut just a little too close to personal. Therefore I should strive to go for the constructive. It causes my students to want to come back for the next rehearsal.

[2] Did I disguise my opinion as Fact? Any persuasive opinion piece will attempt to prove somehow that “the opinions expressed are those of the author and the author has got it right!”, otherwise it’s not much of an opinion piece. But not always best to assume that one’s word is law; so, again, worth a look.

[3] Did I personally attack Ms. Evancho? Other than commenting on her voice.  And here, I take pains to assure both my middle-school choristers and my church-choir colleagues that the activity of singing is one of the most vulnerable acts a person can achieve. The human voice is an instrument, but if it comes out sounding less than how you’d like it, you can’t exactly tap a valve or re-tune a string or cuss out the reed. Your instrument is YOU. So, it can sound a lot more personal when the critique seems to be of your personal possession rather than your student horn that really needs to be upgraded anyway.

[4] Also, the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So perhaps maybe I’ve been equivalently done-unto, except for the aforementioned couple of comments that you won’t read here.

So. Let’s see that blog post again, in slow motion…

 

First salvo: in the direction of PBS, and whether its Performances are always that Great. I’m a PBS/NPR guy and always have been; which in some corners instantly marks me as a cultural elitist, fairly or not. And even a broadcast organization as worthy as PBS will have its off days. But occasionally it will put up onto pedestals some musical performances that are full of sound and fury, signifying not much. They’re big and loud and attract attention, and are sometimes, I would go so far as to say, mediocre at heart. In a culture that increasingly celebrates work that is just not as good as it’s dressed up to look, PBS has the opportunity (some would say the responsibility) to be more discerning than commercial TV networks.

 

Next roundhouse: I seemed to beat on Jackie Evancho’s backup band and set designers pretty good. Okay:

[1] It’s television, so it does need to have a visual component; so if the columns were good enough for the Greeks…!

[2] My apologies to the pianist, if necessary. He didn’t miss a note as long as I watched — which is something I aspire to but will never achieve.

[3] In no way was I denigrating the orchestra members. I’ve played gigs that were “just a gig”, and it didn’t mean I put any less effort into the playing. And for every one of those second violins, there are legions of other violinists who didn’t get the gig, who wish they had, and were probably good enough to challenge for it. (And, for that matter, there are legions of singers out there who also deserve their own PBS specials!)

[4] The conductor was off-the-charts overdoing it. Speaking as someone who has conducted massed choir-and-orchestra works (Vivaldi, Britten, etc.) as well as the occasional marching band show, I can appreciate the effort it takes to hold the hulk together, particularly when distance (from you to the performers) is a factor. This gentleman is probably a good guy; but if your conducting pattern is that large all the time, what happens when you really need to show an accent?

 

But, to the main point: a second look at the treatment of our soloist. Again, the question: did I use a sharp stick on an 11-year-old?

[1] Personal attack is not cool, so I need to make sure I didn’t launch any here. I think I was telling the truth about Ms. Evancho’s interview style – well-spoken, polite; and honestly, when I was 11 could I have given that kind of interview? Even if David Foster had let me get more than a sentence in edgeways? If that’s a true window into what kind of person she is, well, score one for her.

[2] About the possibility of stage parents … I’ve interacted with enough of those to be able to see them coming a mile away.  Of course I don’t KNOW whether Ms. Evancho’s got them! One can, at best, hope not.

So, now, okay: I’ve found my first serious opportunity for rewrite.  [3] Let me re-write this sentence, then: “All I can really comment upon is her performance, and after having researched more of that, I still have just one word for the effect of Ms. Evancho’s voice: Creepy.” And perhaps “creepy” isn’t exactly the right word after all. “Disconcerting,” perhaps. But I can’t help it that my first impression of the singing (which you never get a second chance at) was not so much of wonder, but much more of wondering. It wasn’t an offhand remark, to invoke the voice teachers I know (teaching at all levels, from grade school to college) who might just back me up here. I can think of three right off the top of my head who would probably be very curious to work with Ms. Evancho for half an hour, just to see what was really going on.

[4] Now. The thing that is not fair game for critique is, as they say, “what God gave ya.” If the chromosomes lined up for Ms. Evancho (or Leann Rimes, or Daisy Eagan) in such a way that this is just plain ol’ how she sings, then who am I, who is anyone, to take a hack at her? Certainly not a mean-spirited hack. Charlie Parker played saxophone in a way that no one on earth had, or did, or has since; no reason to accuse him of some sort of artistic fraud. Hell, if the good Lord had decided to grace me with an interplanetary ability to instantly sight-read classical piano music … which He (She?) hasn’t … darn it … I’d be a bit sensitive if someone then said, “this kind of playing shouldn’t be coming out of this person.” Like some kind of law of the universe is being violated.

[5] I brought up Mozart because, well, Mozart was in fact a monumental “aberration, a freak of nature”; and his operas were in fact hailed by many of his contemporaries as Just That Good; only Mozart scholars can tell in a blind taste-test whether they’re listening to Early Mozart or Late Mozart. Sometimes the planets line up, skill sets are assigned, and astonishing heights of artistic ability are achieved by humans; and not just classical music humans either.

I also brought up Mozart because we’re still playing and listening to his stuff, centuries later. We’re still admiring the genius of Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles (talking of people who were brilliant performers as very young children), and Lennon and McCartney, decades later. If Jackie Evancho is singing five or ten years from now, or twenty, or forty!, and we’re still admiring her work, then I’ll happily clap too.

We’ll have to wait and see. But I suspect there are lots and lots of music industry people who are counting on this very young person with, clearly, a voice that deserves to attract attention!, to be their ticket to the big time or to more pledge dollars, right now. American entertainment has seen way too many very youthful performers hit big early and come to sad ends, or at least fade away into obscurity, and to what end? Sometimes only an autobiography that wonders, “what if?” and “if only”.  (Or a “Behind the Music” special.)

So maybe, in some sense, I was “creeped out, plain and simple” on her behalf, after all – and much more creeped out by the environment that probably will swirl around her for the next, well, however many years she’ll be thought of as a big deal. I wish her well, I really do. I hope it works out.

 

POSTSCRIPT: By the way. A note about the comments (many of which I approved for display anyway) which suggest that I could be the Worst! Music Teacher! In the World! for having written mean, callous, heartless things about an 11-year-old girl.

Just because I’m a music teacher doesn’t make my opinions the be-all, end-all authority on subjects like these. As I suggested above, I’ve known many music teachers who are not that good with kids! and I’ve tried desperately to avoid being like them. But, as long as we’re speaking of making assumptions without having proper evidence … before you pass judgment on a teacher, come visit their class for a while, please. I don’t take those comments personally but I do take them professionally. My experiences in this line of work have in fact underscored, to me, the importance of supporting students who pursue music; to make sure that I treat them in a way that is respectful and positive; to provide encouragement, rather than just error-detection and -correction – especially those students for whom a staggering amount of musical talent isn’t something they were born with, but who nonetheless really want to make the effort and participate in an activity they love – whether or not a spotlight ever hits them.

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June 27, 2011 - Posted by | blogging, education, media, music, npr, television, writing

13 Comments »

  1. Thank you for your reply. I did not comment on the first blog, although I read it.

    I will tell you the thing that concerned me about the first piece – the word “creepy,” which you did address somewhat. When reading a commentary from someone of your experience, I always expect to learn something useful, or to be encouraged to think about something differently (like your piece on Trump, for example). This is why I read your blog. Saying something was “creepy” doesn’t do either of those things – it is an empty word, in a way.

    I have serious concerns about Jackie Evancho’s voice at this point. I do think she is a prodigy with tremendous potential. But she *seems* to sing with such a closed throat in so many places that it is concerning. I would have appreciated some learned, experienced words about specifics like this. I really want to understand what she’s doing, and certainly, the media won’t even ask whether it’s safe or good for her.

    I don’t fault her family – they’ve been offered gold at the end of the tunnel and are very likely being told they’re doing all the right things. Certainly, I have no doubt they are trying with everything they have to do all the right things. So, for her voice – are they? I don’t know, but it would be an interesting blog to see – one that very factually, very dispassionately looks at exactly what she’s doing and what may or may not happen as a result, from someone not connected to people like Simon Cowell and David Foster (who may be wonderful, but is, after all, concerned with producing hits first and foremost).

    Thanks again. I do think this is an important topic. There is a girl that’s been thrust into the limelight, a girl who is somewhat of a celebrity and I don’t think it’s unfair, therefore, to ask – is this really a good thing? Is the media so hungry for a “wow” moment, that they are willing, all together, to sacrifice a child’s future voice? Are viewers?

    Comment by Bonnie T. | June 27, 2011 | Reply

  2. I can see you’re making an effort to be reasonable, and to show a willingness to re-examine previous conclusions.

    Also, let me stipulate that it’s perfectly fair to criticize Ms. Evancho’s art harshly, if it can be justified. It’s not like she’s competing with other children in a singing contest in her school. She isn’t even competing with other “child singers.”

    She’s competing on the international stage for people’s music-buying dollars, head on against other Classical Crossover artists such as Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, and Katherine Jenkins.. And in fact her voice and approach have proven so popular that she’s found herself competing with the most popular singers out there–with the likes of Adele, Eminem, and Lady Gaga.

    So the proper start for any discussion of Ms. Evancho’s art is to consider it without regard to her age. It can be hard to sort out one’s own responses in this way, so I’ve been playing her music to people who know nothing about, using MP3s. In general the response I’ve gotten is people being mightily impressed–so much so as to wonder who is this wonderful singer whose voice they don’t recognize. When I ask them what she looks like, they generally “see” a woman in her 20s or 30s, tall and heavyset (to support the big, rich voice).

    Try it on people you know who don’t know about her. I believe you’ll find this response confirmed. If they’re musically literate, they may comment on her rich, buttery tone up and down her range, with near-seamless passagio, judicious portamento always constrained to serving the song rather than showing off the singer’s chops; astute phrasing used to communicate the lyrics and the emotions of the song, and in general an impression of complete authenticity–of being “inside the music.” They will also note that she breathes more often than one would expect of a 25 year old classically-trained soprano–but also that she’s adroit at masking this. And that this shortcoming is more than offset by her strengths.

    Of course this is all within a specific genre of music. She’s shown no signs of being able to sing jazz, blues, coloratura operatic arias, bluegrass, modal Bulgarian village choir music, pentatonic Indonesian lullabies etc. etc.

    But within the scope of her craft an astonishing number of people rate her the best. Not potentially the best, not the best someday maybe. The best. Today. Yet at the same time those who’ve been following her closely have seen every new performance of songs she’s already done bringing new depths and professionalism to those performances, even when no more than a few weeks have elapsed. At this point she’s just competing with herself in her field, and yet she keeps honing her art at a prodigious pace.

    Lastly, before taking her age into account, I would add that few of her active fans are much interested in “child singers.” Especially since she doesn’t have that “child singer sound.”

    Now when we do take her age into account, it is reasonable to ask whether she’s being exploited; whether she has been trained to sing this way; whether she’s ruining her voice.

    To answer these valid concerns briefly:
    1. The Evancho family has been under a mass media microscopic since last August, and they’ve come up squeaky-clean. Her parents greatly restrict her performance schedule, both to preserve her childhood and her voice (often against her wishes, in fact–she’s driven).

    2. She hasn’t been trained at all, except to check in with Julliard voice coaches regularly to ensure that she’s doing nothing to harm her instrument. Her larynx is also checked quarterly by a medical specialist. Her sound is self-taught, after watching Emmy Rossum’s “Phantom of the Opera” performance at age 7.

    I should add that it’s all those American Idol wannabe tweeny belters who are wrecking their voices. Ms. Evancho isn’t allowed to belt–her voice is actually even bigger than people get to hear in concert; likewise she’s only allowed to sing as high as she can without straning.

    Now to put these together: Jackie Evancho’s vocal abilities at this age are unique in the history of recorded music. If you listen to Julie Andrews and Beverly Sills at that age–and I have–you’ll hear children with “children’s voices” trying to sing coloratura arias, and while doing well by child standards, not singing them to adult standards. And their voice texture is thin compared to Jackie’s. Many are now trying to sound like her. America’s Got Talent is desperate to find another child singer like her. None have come close to succeeding.

    The girl herself has said she has no interest in “stuck-up” behavior. She travels with one parent and at least one of her three siblings always in tow. She’s a happy kid overall, and astonishingly polite and thoughtful. Of course interviews don’t quite reveal what a disciplined artist she is. Those who’ve worked in the studio with her have found that they can and should deal with her exactly the same as they would with an adult singer.

    Hope this helps.

    Comment by Ehkzu | June 27, 2011 | Reply

  3. Your comments are typical of what happens when faced with someone that doesn’t “fit into the box”. You are a teacher in a public school, teaching a middle-school choir…both environments that stifle and discourage the unique, and encourage conformity (please *do* tell me that I’m generalizing and that you are different). I’m a 14 year choir-dad with a soprano daughter in the auditioned-for Applied Music Program at her college, where she is finally beginning to “find her voice”. And I’ve provided stage lighting for my local middle-school’s musical performances for the past nine years, and seen how the choir instructor there manages to encourage and embrace the few gifted and unique voices, in spite of having 80+ kids in her zero-period class.

    To give you a little better insight into Jackie’s singing, please look/listen to the following:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/05/23/136336310/jackie-evancho-tiny-desk-concert

    Also, your comments about the Evancho family are (unfortunately) made out of ignorance and a good dose of cynicism – which is your prerogative, however it is intellectually dishonest. With just a minimal bit of research, you wouldn’t have written what you did. There has been much discussion about, and evidence shown that Jackie’s parents are keeping her well-grounded, and that her vocal, mental, and physical well-being are foremost over any possible (yes, possible) financial rewards. Your kiss-kick comment about David Foster is just sad. Yes, David Foster is concerned with producing hits. He’s been very successful at that, and “fostered” the careers of many greats in the music industry: Bryan Adams, Christina Aguilera, The Bee Gees, Andrea Bocelli, Boz Scaggs, Mariah Carey, Cher, Chicago, Destiny’s Child, Josh Groban, Neil Diamond, Céline Dion, Earth Wind and Fire, Gloria Estefan, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, Beyonce Knowles, Kenny Loggins, Madonna, Michael Bublé, Olivia Newton-John, Nsync, Charice Pempengco, Prince, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Shania Twain, and more. Now he’s produced Jackie’s Dream With Me album – even though he was contracted to Warner Records, and will be to Universal Music (and not to SYCO/Sony). He believes in her. Watching him watching Jackie sing says it all. The awe, wonder, respect is obvious. And producing hits is how success is measured in the music industry. How do you measure success?

    Because Jackie is 11, she can’t possibly be singing the way she does. It’s just not right. It’s “creepy”.
    She should be just playing with her pets, giggling with other school chums, doing homework, writing in her diary, and singing in the choir? Well, she does everything but the choir. And she’s written lyrics for fifty songs (quoting David Foster). She sings “Nessum Dorma”, ” Mi Mancherai”, “Mio Babbino Caro”, Ombra Mai Fu”, and other opera arias in addition to a number of classic and pop songs. And she sings them well, with feeling and musical insight that very few singers can match, whatever their age. She doesn’t do it with “power”. She doesn’t have to. She’s NOT an opera singer, and has never claimed to be one. It’s not her fault that the uninitiated keep making that mistake. She is a classical-crossover singer who started out singing songs from “Phantom Of The Opera” at age seven after seeing the movie. And she did it well, especially for her age. Now, she sings what she sings well, for anyone at any age. Yes, Jackie sings with a microphone. She doesn’t “belt” her music like so many other young singers trying to be heard. She is protecting her voice. She sings what’s within her abilities. And what you hear is “her voice”. She doesn’t fit into any pigeon-hole. She is unique, and a once-in-a-generation entity. Sit back, close your eyes, and just *listen* to “Dream With Me”, and leave the baggage on the stoop.

    Comment by Charles Hoff | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  4. Those who have it…do it, those who don’t … teach !

    Comment by mygmailaccount | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  5. Now, for the crass.

    Child or not, Jackie Evancho has embarked on the business of being a professional entertainer, which is not necessarily the same as being an artist (insert reference to latest Hip-Hop thug here). She is, for better or worse, like it or not, now competing in the business world. And how does one judge business success? There is an earthy but apt saying “money talks and bulls***t walks”.

    So, when I see two number two Billboard debuts in two at bats, and her outselling all but ONE recording “artist” on the planet across all genres to me that means that the people who matter in business (customers) like her just fine and show it with money.

    What’s in your wallet?

    Comment by Steve Atkinson | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  6. I had intended to strongly dispute your arguments after your initial post, but you came back with a more balanced, nuanced post, where you backed off a number of your initial assertions. I still believe there are flaws in the logic of a great many naysayers like you (you are not alone). Many people find her mature-sounding voice unusual, disconcerting, outside their experience; they then say, ergo, that it’s “unnatural,” “creepy” &/or “dangerous” for her long-term vocal health. But this “ergo” does NOT necessarily apply, & the following will attempt to demonstrate why.

    In your initial post, at least you were an equal opportunity offender: it appeared that the only acceptable thing about the concert was the Greek statuary, & perhaps the lighting. You criticized David Foster, the conductor, PBS & members of the audience foolish enough to like the concert & open their pocketbooks to donate. David Foster’s 16 Grammy awards may tend to innoculate him against at least some criticisms. And by declaring yourself a PBS/NPR person, presumably you were at least indirectly backing off your criticisms of PBS executives & their audience.

    Your “compliment” to the orchestral musicians, when you said they were good at “hiding the fact that this [was] just a gig” was back-handed, but you also backed off that a bit in your subsequent post. You were “expecting Brubeck, Brahms & Bowie.” I’m glad you can recognize the true genius of Dave Brubeck, & David Bowie was very innovative in what he did.

    It is well known that the vast majority of vocal problems in young singers are due to cordal damage due to “belting” in the upper modal (“normal”) register. Jackie studiously avoids this. Her amazing adult timbre is probably the result of unusual muscular control over the shape of the hypopharynx, & possibly the position of the larynx &/or resonances with other parts of the vocal tract. This specifically does not directly involve the vocal cords. Her cords may not be fully calcified yet, but she is not doing anything that would endanger them.

    You said Jackie was “creepy,” but later backed off, saying a better word might be “disconcerting.” Others pointed out, & you acknowledged, that as a teacher you didn’t want to personally insult a child like Jackie by calling her voice “creepy,” given how personal a singer’s instrument is. Still, her sound is outside your experience, therefore abnormal, therefore “creepy,” or at least “disconcerting,” & therefore dangerous. Well, that reasoning doesn’t necessarily follow. No doubt many, including you, would have thought Mozart “creepy” in 1767, when he was 11.

    You said Jackie is ruining her voice, but “better vocal instructors than [you are] could get very specific about what she’s doing with her voice which might jeopardize its future.” Then you asserted that “professional singers could render a diagnosis in a hearbeat.”

    It was very wise to admit your uncertainty, because your 1st post was essentially saying you were positive she is damaging her voice, & all others are wrong. However, if we didn’t believe you on this point, if we wanted actual evidence, OTHER PEOPLE would magically materialize to make your argument for you. Oh yeah, & you once heard some other singers in the late 80s who “sounded older than they should have,” & you “WONDERED how much damage they were inflicting on themselves” (not that you actually HEARD them again, say, in the 90s, & their voices were shot….).

    So – you weren’t providing the science, you didn’t have the evidence, or even testimonials, from vocal teachers or professional singers, & the only evidence you had was ANECDOTAL – except WITHOUT THE ANECDOTE!!! Your argument would have been funny if it wasn’t pathetic. Trust me, that argument would have deserved an F in rhetoric, philosophy or science class, if you studied those subjects along with music at university.

    OK, i’ll provide some evidence, then refute it. Singwise tends to be the most scientifically accurate (vocal teaching) site about singing (there are many others that, e.g., stick to long-accepted truisms in the opera world that have been disproven by modern science):

    http://www.singwise.com/cgi-bin/main…iningVocalFach

    It says, among other things, the following:

    “Young voices should never be encouraged to sound more mature by falsely darkening their tone. The imitation of mature voices heard on recordings or in live performances is potentially damaging. Likewise, more mature voices should never attempt to sound more youthful than they naturally would.”

    It states than it MIGHT be harmful for a young singer to “darken” his or her timbre. Keep in mind that this statement is in a section about determining vocal fach, i.e. type of voice, & how important it is to be correct about it; there is no doubt about that, especially WRT opera. Jackie’s range is approximately C3 to G6, but she doesn’t approach these limits in her singing, & at least at present, sings well within a mezzo soprano fach. The difficulty in defining “darkening” can be seen here:

    http://www.rockthestagenyc.com/freestuff/Vocal_Weight_PT1.pdf

    What this article describes is EXACTLY EQUIVALENT to belting in the upper modal register. In the modal register, the entire cords are vibrating, & if the pitch is taken too high, especially if the volume is also high, it risks damage to the vocal cords. These are well-known things (see above). He uses “vocal weight,” “heavy voice” & “darkening,” among other things, to describe this process.

    We may describe what Jackie does as “darkening” her timbre, but it involves manipulation of the hypopharynx & possibly the larynx, NOT the vocal cords. If “darkening” refers to the kinds of things (e.g.) Janis Joplin & Dee Snider (the lead singer of Twisted Sister) did, that raspy timbre virtually requires damage to the cords. Attempting THAT kind of “darkening” is dangerous to the voice even as an adult, let alone as a child.

    Next check (opera singer) supermaren’s blog:

    http://supermaren.com/2011/06/10/prodigy/

    She BELIEVES Jackie’s sound is “unnatural,” ergo “dangerous,” but can’t articulate why. When i provided a scientific argument opposing hers, she couldn’t rebut it in any detail. The only thing we agreed on is that Jackie has a chin waggle, which may be a sign of abnormal tension in the jaw. Historically, some singers have developed problems (especially with “wobbly” vibrato) later on when they had this, some did not, so everyone was taught not to do it. I’ve speculated about a mechanism & suggested ways to improve this, & have actually mentioned it so often on the blogs that Jackie’s mom has become really annoyed with me. Other than that, there is nothing potentially dangerous about the way Jackie sings.

    Others have pointed out that Jackie’s adult-sounding timbre is unique in the history of recorded music. I have argued above that we have good reason to believe that she is NOT threatening her long-term vocal health. Obviously all singing is potentially dangerous, but Jackie is risking her voice considerably less than a very large number of children “belting” in their school musicals. Has that kind of thing ever occurred in your work with children?

    All of these comments on the technical aspects of Jackie’s voice miss another very important point: her emotional connections with her music & her audience are as intense as those of ANY singer of ANY age in ANY genre. This would be very impressive in an adult singer, but it is unheard of, some would say “impossible,” in an 11 year old child. Her favorite song to sing on DWM (her new album Dream With Me) is Lovers, a song about intense, essentially unrequited romantic love. How can she express emotions she’s never even had? Well, there she is. She simply DOES express those feelings as well as any adult singer.
    Some in her audience comment on the healing quality in her singing:

    “Why, or how, are Jackie and her music so calming and healing? When I’m in the deepest of depression and despair, when I feel wronged and hopeless, I play Jackie’s music and it helps me more than any pill I’ve ever taken. It gives me peace.

    I don’t understand how, or why, but I’m very, very grateful.”

    This was from one of the Amazon blogs, but it doesn’t seem to be limited to just one person, as many people have discussed it on multiple blogs. Jackie simply connects with people emotionally.

    In February she did a concert for Brilliant Lectures in Houston. She didn’t just get a standing ovation after her performance, she got them after every SONG. That was the 1st time that had ever happened in the history of Brilliant Lectures. Their previous guest singers had included Julie Andrews, a pretty good pop/Broadway singer, Diana Ross, a pretty good Motown/R&B singer, & Renée Fleming, a pretty good opera/whatever singer. All 3 of those women were at least arguably the best in the world (or among the best) at one time or another in their respective genres, yet in terms of audience response Jackie outsang them all. She was 10 – TEN! – & singing in only her 2nd concert ever (at least where she was the headliner). How can that be possible? Well, there she is. It’s typical for Jackie to get standing O’s after every song, & in fact the PBS Great Performances special was very unusual in that she only received a few standing O’s. (It turned out there were very good reasons for that, since the show wasn’t really a concert per se, but a series of frequently interrupted taping sessions for TV.)

    If you look around Jackie’s audiences, you can’t help but be impressed by the number of people weeping. This is another thing that has been repeatedly discussed on multiple blogs. She has a powerful emotional effect on some people, & it’s not because she’s singing sad songs. If you ask these crying people, they often don’t even know why they’re crying. Her singing is beautiful & it touches their hearts. It happened to Reba McIntyre, one of the queens of country music, when she was in the audience listening to Jackie at Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night in March. It’s simply a testament to her astonishing talent.

    You have taken a great deal of “heat” for your original comments, most of it well-deserved. Jackie has qualities that are virtually unheard of, perhaps unique, in the history of recorded music. Combine that with a pleasing appearance, a delightful personality, & focus & discipline as strong as any adult singer, not to mention the “luck” of being born into a supportive family without “pushy” stage parents. It’s a potent combination. It may turn out that the naysayers are right, that Jackie will have a brief career & quickly ruin her voice, but the available scientific evidence suggests that her voice will last, that she’ll have a long (50-60 years? more?) & successful career.

    Comment by PG Antioch | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  7. Oh my! I think some of these fans of Jackie Evancho might have a tad too much time on their hands! Can I get the cliff notes version so I can go about the rest of my day? haha. Wow. This level of “devotion” does give one pause…..

    Comment by Bonnie T. | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  8. I’ll keep this short, wouldn’t want Mrs. Kravitz to have to take pause again.
    You have every First Amendment right to not like Jackie’s music, or anything about her.
    You also have the right to say so.
    However, I do take great pause at the fact that you are involved with the musical education of children in this age group.
    There are numerous opportunities with college-age and adult music students where such corrosive views will not cause harm.
    You owe the young lady and her parents an unequivocal apology.

    Comment by Steve C. | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  9. Bonnie, they bested your point of view and they did it respectfully and without putting you down. Your reply is to take personal shots at them. Let the kid pursue her passion. Hardly anything wrong with that.

    Comment by Walter Clifford | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  10. Apparently quite a few of these people are part of a critic ‘posse’ who live on the Jackie Evancho Dream With Me Amazon.com fan forum. They’re mostly middle aged men who are very opinionated and very long winded. If someone slams Jackie, they descend on the offender howling self-importance and righteous indignation. It’s rather ridiculous, really. Reading their postings is somewhat akin to hitting your head with a hammer – their circular ramblings are that painful.

    Comment by Doctor Arkanoid | June 28, 2011 | Reply

  11. OK, here’s the “Cliff Notes version.” Jackie’s not creepy, she’s TALENTED. She does 2 main things previously thought impossible:
    1. Her voice is fantastic, full, rich & mature-sounding. She has not been coached to sing this way, she has simply developed it sui generis. She studiously avoids the things mostly likely to risk the long-term health of her voice.
    2. She connects emotionally with her music & her audience as well as any singer of any age in any genre. She consistently has people in her audience in tears, & usually gets standing ovations not after every performance but after every SONG.
    She’s not a child singer, she’s a singer who happens to be a child. No singer in the history of Western recorded music (at least in anything close to this genre, classical or pop) has been this advanced, this good, at this age.

    Comment by PG Antioch | June 29, 2011 | Reply

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