Here's the kid (bottom right BTW) who Billboard Magazine ranks as the #1 classical artist in America, the 10th best-selling recording artist across all genres, who had the second-best-selling CD of the year among classical crossover/"vocalist" artists, and whose PBS special "Dream with me" is apparently the most pledge-producing concert of any that PBS stations have ever used for their pledge drives.
You'd think all that would at least get her some attention from the mainstream press.
Well, the New York Times deigned to take note of her existence belatedly. Toward the end of last year it sent a stringer who specializes in reviewing hip hop and rap to a live concert she gave in New York. You can imagine what he had to say.
Then the Washington Post one-upped the NYTimes: last week it had a classical music critic "review" her. As far as I could tell he based his musical analysis on the first time she ever appeared on TV, 16 months ago, singing for 90 seconds. From that he concluded that she was an abused, sexualized child who's being forced to sing music she shouldn't be singing in a horrible technique that's guaranteed to destroy her voice--which he grudgingly conceded had some strengths--and wrapped it up by likening her to Jon-Benet Ramsey!
He got a ton of very angry comments. He responded by doubling down on everything he'd said in a podcast on New York public classical station WQXR-FM, with several classical doyennes nodding their heads in agreement.
Nobody else this side of the Taliban thinks her clothing would be inappropriate for performing for the President of the United States and his family or the Emperor of Japan and his family--both of which she's done.
Nobody who isn't seriously warped in the head would think her choice of clothing or music--opera arias, show tunes and slow to midtempo pop numbers--puts her in league with all those miniskirted Beyonce wannabes out there.
And anyone who accuses her parents of abusing her--which the WaPo "critic" stated as a proven fact--had better hope that they're too small to draw the Evanchos' attention, because that falls well within the boundaries of our country's defamation laws.
Moreover, the doom predicted for her voice is not shared by any of the otolaryngologists who examine her regularly, nor by the voice coaches who work with her, nor by concert schedulers who'd love to have her perform more often and more often during her concerts, but are frustrated by Jackie's parents' insistence that the health and longevity of her voice come first.
My point here isn't to defend her and her family, however. Anyone who Google/Wikis/YouTube's Jackie Evancho for less than an hour will know that these critiques aren't just rubbish, but appallingly ignorant rubbish--appalling because I'd expect far higher standards of journalism from such eminent media sources and from the critical establishment.
My point is to show how, when confronted with someone who doesn't fall within the neat categories critics use to slice and dice reality, they reject the someone rather than revise their categories--or admit, even to themselves, that those categories don't accommodate the rare interpretive musical genius who comes along perhaps once or twice a century. Interestingly, many fans of the genres these critics champion love Jackie's music. It's the critics who don't.
Thus to a parochial rap/hip hop critic she's a lousy rapper. To the classical snob she's a lousy operatic soprano. To many classical music teachers she's a parvenu from petit bourgeoise parents who has been the curse of them, now that they're being besieged by children and parents dying to have their kid trained to become the next Jackie.
And those teachers can't tell those kids and their parents the truth: "I don't know how to teach anyone how to sing like Jackie Evancho, because nobody knows how she does it, and even she can't explain how she does it; and even if anyone could explain it you'd have to be a musical genius yourself to follow in her path. I can teach you how to sing well, and safely, but you'll never even get in the same ballpark as Ms. Evancho."
So instead of saying that they say "Jackie Evancho is a bad opera singer who's destroying her voice rapidly, so I shouldn't and won't teach you how to sing like her."
Never mind that just because someone sings the occasional aria doesn't make her or him an opera singer; opera singing is a technique that can be used with any kind of music, just as any kind of opera music can be sung non-operatically. Never mind that Jackie, her parents, and her label have never claimed she was an opera singer, do not now, and say she has no plans to sing in operas or to sing operatically in the future, making the opera snobs' criticism about as relevant as saying she's a lousy Tuvan throat singer. And never mind that one of the most prestigious voice doctors in America just declared her vocal cords "pristine." These bozos know what they know...or they feel compelled to believe they do.
I'm not claiming that everyone should love listening to Jackie Evancho. Some never will. What I am claiming is that the music critic establishment is failing--grossly failing--to live up to what should be its mandate: to match listeners with music.
Instead they're trying to game the system by trashing the work and family of an artist who works in a hybrid area, neither purely classical nor purely pop. They don't understand singers who don't fit in their neat little cubbyholes. They don't understand children when the children are geniuses. They don't understand their job, which should be serving their readers. And they don't understand how you don't get to defame people's characters with no other reason than their prejudices and Lindsay Lohan.
So here's an extremely nice, polite. well-behaved, studiously diplomatic 11 year old girl who is unintentionally bringing out the worst in a significant chunk of the arts world's establishment.
Speaking as a sociologist, I find it fascinating. She's a regular Rorschach blot, given all the putrefying nonsense a lot of self-appointed experts are saying about her (when they bother to notice the she exists at all), 90% of which is false, and obviously so.
The only critique I've heard that sticks even a little is that her backup arrangements tend to be overblown--gilding the lily--sometimes burying her exquisite voice in a wall of sound filled with clashing cymbals, swooning strings, harp arpeggios, horns horning in etc. Hopefully that will diminish as she grows older and gets more artistic control over her products. But even with the WOS productions a majority of music lovers will find her CDs and especially her DVDs well worth having.