Between 2008 and 2010, Evancho entered talent competitions, sang the U.S. national anthem at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game, issued her first album, Prelude to a Dream, and attracted interest on YouTube. In 2010, at the age of ten, she gained wide notice with her 2nd-place finish in the fifth season of America's Got Talent. With the 2010 holiday release of her O Holy NightEP, Evancho became the best-selling debut artist of 2010, the youngest top-10 debut artist in U.S. history and the youngest solo artist ever to go platinum in the U.S. In 2011, her first full-length album, Dream with Me debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, and she became the youngest top-5 debut artist in UK history. Billboard ranked Evancho the top Classical Albums Artist for 2011. Later that year, Evancho released a full-length holiday album, Heavenly Christmas, and became the youngest person ever to give a solo concert at Lincoln Center in New York City as part of her first concert tour.
Evancho saw the film version of the musical The Phantom of the Opera and liked it so much that her mother purchased the DVD; Evancho began singing the songs at home. Her parents have said that they did not recognize that her voice was unusual until her first talent competition, which she entered just before her 8th birthday. In the competition, Kean Idol, Evancho finished in second place. She began taking voice lessons and singing at events, churches and nursing homes, mostly in Pennsylvania. She also started a YouTube channel, sang in the Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh (now Pittsburgh Youth Chorus) during its 2008–09 season, and performed the title role in a 2009 school musical version of Little Red Riding Hood.
In 2009, Evancho competed in Las Vegas in the 15th annual U.S.A. World Showcase Talent Competition, where she also finished in second place. At the 2009 Kean Idol contest, she was again runner-up. In other 2009 talent contests, she won the Golden Ribby Award – WonderworldTV and the Talent Quest TV Show (both in Massachusetts). Also in 2009, she sang "Ave Maria" in composer and conductor Tim Janis's PBS television special "Celebrate America" and performed in other concerts and TV shows with Janis, who sought her out after seeing her on YouTube. She made various singing appearances around Pennsylvania in 2009 and 2010.
David Foster and Prelude to a Dream
Evancho in her concert with David Foster, December 29, 2011
After two earlier unsuccessful auditions for the show, Evancho was accepted as a contestant on the fifth season of NBC's America's Got Talent (AGT) by placing first in its 2010 YouTube competition. On August 10, 2010, Evancho performed the aria "O mio babbino caro" in the show's quarter-final round. The judges' reactions were effusive. Afterwards, commentators queried whether her performance had been lip-synched. On the next evening's live show, Evancho sang an impromptu voice exercise to demonstrate that the broadcast was of her live voice. In an interview, judge Howie Mandel addressed the issue: "[W]hat people are ... really saying [is] that it's really too good to be true."
Her semifinal performance was "Time to Say Goodbye". She advanced to the Top 10 round, where she performed "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem and was voted into the Final 4. Pittsburgh leaders declared the following week "Jackie Evancho Week". Her final competition performance, on September 14, 2010, was of Gounod's "Ave Maria". The following evening at the AGT season finale, Evancho sang "Time to Say Goodbye" together with guest artist Sarah Brightman; then Evancho was announced as the runner-up, finishing second to singer Michael Grimm. Many viewers and commentators felt that Evancho should have won, and Grimm expressed surprise at the outcome. The show brought Evancho wide exposure to American audiences, as up to 16 million viewers watched her performances. The finale show was AGT's highest-rated episode in three years. She was a guest on The Tonight Show a week after the finale, where she sang and gave her first late-night interview with Jay Leno. Evancho was featured and interviewed in the 2013 book Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent.
Evancho's first release on a major record label was a Columbia RecordsEP titled O Holy Night. It was released on November 16, 2010, and entered the Billboard 200 at No. 2, making Evancho the top-selling debut artist for 2010 and the youngest solo artist ever to debut in the top 10. It also launched at No. 1 on Billboard's Classical Albums chart and No. 2 on Billboard's Holiday Albums Chart. The album sold 239,000 copies in its first week. The EP was certified platinum by the RIAA, making Evancho the youngest solo artist ever to go platinum in the U.S.
Billboard ranked O Holy Night at No. 1 on its 2011 year-end Classical Albums chart. It also ranked the album as the No. 15 best-selling album of 2011 in the U.S. and the No. 31 Canadian Album of 2011.
Evancho's second full-length album, Dream with Me, produced by David Foster for Sony and Syco Music, was released on June 14, 2011. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, reached No. 1 on Billboard's Classical Albums Chart, and was certified gold by the RIAA. With this album, Evancho became the youngest artist ever to debut in the UK in the top 5. The album includes popular songs ("Angel"), classical arias ("Ombra mai fu") and original songs, including the title track, for which Evancho contributed to the lyrics. It also includes duets with Barbra Streisand ("Somewhere") and Susan Boyle ("The Prayer"). Target released a deluxe edition with four bonus tracks.Allmusic gave the album 3-1/2 stars out of five, and USA Today commented that Evancho's "sweet, unblemished vocal tone and slow, careful vibrato hardly betray her young age. ... But Dream's predictable and often bombastic odes to love and faith can undermine the tween's most appealing quality: innocence."
Evancho promoted the album on television and at concerts. Her first solo concert television special for the 2011 PBS Great Performances series consisted of performances of largely the same songs as the album. The special, titled Dream With Me In Concert, was the most broadcast program of the year on the PBS network. It "became one of the most viewed specials in the 38-year-history of the Great Performances series [and] raised record amounts of money for PBS stations." Evancho was the youngest person ever to have a special on the series. The concert was hosted by David Foster, with guest Conrad Tao. The CD/DVD release reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top Music Video chart. Evancho performed "Nessun dorma" as a guest artist at the June 2011 season finale of Britain's Got Talent, and at the September 2011 season finale of America's Got Talent.
On its 2011 year-end charts, Billboard ranked Dream With Me as the No. 2 best-selling Classical Album for the year and as the No. 45 U.S. album of 2011.Dream With Me was listed on the Billboard 200 for 28 weeks and the Classical Albums chart for 74 weeks.Billboard ranked Dream With Me In Concert the No. 21 music video album of 2011 and the No. 16 music video album of 2012.Dream With Me In Concert was ranked on the Billboard.biz Top Music Video chart for 64 weeks.
The album entered the Billboard Classical Albums chart at No. 1, the Holiday Albums chart at No. 3, and peaked on the Billboard 200 at No. 11. It peaked at No. 9 on the Canadian Albums chart. Allmusic's review gives the album three stars, commenting: "Evancho's vocals are impressive as always, and the arrangements are mostly tasteful, with only occasional moments of bombast".The Salt Lake City Tribune rated the album "A-".Christopher John Farley of The Wall Street Journal wrote that Evancho "sounds like she’s channeling a past life, a future self, or possibly an actual angel."
Evancho's television appearances to promote the album included The View,The Talk, and The Tonight Show. She gave concerts to promote the album in December 2011 in Buffalo, New York; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Pittsburgh. On its 2011 year-end charts, Billboard ranked Heavenly Christmas as the No. 4 best-selling Classical Album of the year. It ranked the album No. 41 on the 2012 year-end Canadian Albums chart.
The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on the Classical Albums chart and No. 22 on the Canadian Albums chart. The ranking made the 12-year-old the second artist who ever "amassed three top 10 albums [on the Billboard 200] at such a young age." The album remained on the Billboard 200 for 13 weeks and appeared on the Billboard Classical Albums chart in 72 weeks.Songs from the Silver Screen was the No. 4 Classical Album of 2013 and the No. 36 Classical Album of 2014.
Awakening debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 chart and No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart. This was Evancho's fifth consecutive release at No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart. Markos Papadatos of Digital Journal gave Evancho's album an A rating, calling it "stunning from start to finish thanks to her warm classical vocals." He called her renditions of the songs "ethereal", "crystalline" and "haunting". On its year-end charts, Billboard ranked Awakening as the No. 11 best-selling Classical Album of 2014 the No. 3 best-selling Classical Album of 2015 and the No. 31 best-selling classical album of 2016. The album remained on the Billboard Classical Albums chart for a consecutive 72 weeks.
She released her seventh full-length album, Two Hearts, on March 31, 2017, on Sony's Portrait label. It consists of an "album of classical crossover songs – with an EP attached of [five] pop tunes", four of which she co-wrote. The release was Evancho's first to include her own songwriting (other than contributions that she made in 2010 to the lyrics of the title song of Dream With Me). Fanai and Holley returned as producers and co-writers of the four songs on the EP with Evancho.
Evancho began to promote the album near the end of her 2016–2017 Live in Concert Tour. Television promotions included the Today Show, NBC's New York Live and ABC's The View. In April 2017, Evancho gave ten performances at Café Carlyle in New York City, where she was the youngest artist ever to ever perform at the venue. The same month, she released a music video of a song from the album, "Pedestal".
In May 2017, Evancho began a 2017–2018 tour to promote Two Hearts. The album debuted at No. 100 on the Billboard 200, and No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart, Evancho's seventh consecutive release to reach the top of that chart. The tour continues in 2018.
Together with Tony Bennett, Evancho recorded the song "When You Wish upon a Star", a bonus track on the deluxe edition of his 2011 album Duets II, and she lent her voice to a 2011 "happy birthday" tribute to Bennett by Target. She sings "Pie Jesu" on the 2011 album and PBS broadcast Hit Man Returns: David Foster & Friends (2011). She sang in two David Foster & Friends concerts in October 2011, in Tokyo, where she appeared in several Japanese television interviews and performances.
Evancho headlined a benefit concert, called Jackie Evancho & Friends: We are Hope, at the LDS Conference Center in Salt Lake City in late 2013, for the Muzart World Foundation's programs to encourage the teaching of music and art in U.S. public schools. She sang the U.S. national anthem on Thanksgiving Day, at the Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions football game, broadcast on Fox. She then headlined a Christmas-themed benefit concert at Carnegie Hall produced by her old mentor, Tim Janis, in December.
In 2015, Evancho made a video to support the Humane Society's fight against seal hunting. She also joined Andrea Bocelli as a guest in his concert in Thailand. A review in The Nation commented: "If there's anything on Earth close to the sound of an angel, it must be the heavenly voice of Jackie Evancho". In August, she participated in a "David Foster and Friends" concert in Malaysia and released a video, covering Ed Sheeran's "All of the Stars", that tells a story supporting acceptance of LGBT people. In September, Evancho participated in another benefit, with Foster and Bocelli in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, for the Celebrity Fight Night Foundation. The same month, she performed at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia as part of the celebration of Pope Francis's visit to that city. In October 2015, Evancho performed at a benefit for the Global Lyme Alliance in New York City. In December, she sang the U.S. national anthem at the Pittsburgh Steelers game against the Indianapolis Colts and released the first single on her own JE Touring label, a cover of Taylor Swift's "Safe & Sound", together with a video.
2016 to present
In January 2016, Evancho appeared at the Mending Broken Hearts With Hope luncheon to benefit The Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples, Florida. She then released a single and video covering of Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" and another single and video covering, Skylar Grey's "Coming Home (Part II)". In April, Evancho sang the national anthem at the Pittsburgh Pirates' 2016 opening home game. She also released an original pop song by Peter Zizzo, "Apocalypse". Billboard wrote that she "has found a brand-new sound. The 16-year-old singer ... is taking a step outside the classical world that made her famous"; but Evancho told Billboard: "I'm not going to get rid of my classical voice, because that's my roots, that's what I love the most." A reviewer for The New Yorker, however, found the track "cloying", writing that Evancho "sounds unremarkable outside her genre." She also released a video of the song and performed it on the Today show and Live! with Kelly and Michael.
Evancho provided the entertainment at the 2016 Project Sunshine benefit gala and returned to Washington, DC, to participate in the 2016 broadcast and live performance of A Capitol Fourth. She headlined a concert at Festa Italiana at the BMO Harris Pavilion in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, later in July 2016. In September, Evancho sang at the David Foster Foundation's 2016 fundraiser at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to help pay for pediatric organ transplants and support patients' families. She also performed at the Memphis Music Hall of Fame 2016 induction ceremony in November 2016. She is set to participate in AGT's first Christmas special.
Evancho sang the U.S. national anthem at the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump in January 2017. She has stated that her decision to perform was apolitical, but it drew considerable comment on social media and in the press, "from both sides of the political spectrum". On the same day, she released a recording titled Together We Stand, containing three songs: "The Star-Spangled Banner", "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America". Evancho stated that profits from the release would go to LGBT "charities in support of my sister Juliet." The three songs charted at No. 2, 4 and 5, respectively, on Billboard's Classical Digital Song sales chart. Juliet, who is transgender, has advocated for a US federal law to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and other public school facilities designated for the gender with which they identify. Evancho led a TV special in August 2017, on the TLC television network, called "Growing Up Evancho", focusing on the Evanchos' family life and efforts to secure transgender rights.
Evancho performed theme song, "Set Me Free", composed by Tyler Bates, for a large-scale 2017 equestrian musical touring extravaganza in China based on the Trojan War, titled "Troy".
Evancho appeared in the feature film The Company You Keep, a 2013 political thriller. She played Isabel, the eleven-year-old daughter of a widowed attorney turned fugitive, played by Robert Redford, who also directed the film.Jon Weisman wrote that Evancho "showed she's more than a singing prodigy with her earnest sweetness".
Christopher Hahn, General Director of the Pittsburgh Opera, observed: "It's very unusual for a young child to have a voice that sounded so rich and developed." "I thought she was just lovely, sweetly compelling". Hahn particularly praised Evancho's phrasing. Composer Tim Janis commented that Evancho "takes a classical piece and makes it friendly and accessible. ... Her voice is so pure and natural, there's no flaw in it. People say 'I can hear her potential coming,' but no, it's here, it's now." Claudia Benack, Assistant Professor of musical theatre at Carnegie Mellon University, said that Evancho "has an unusually adult feel for the repertoire. ... She sings to the important part of the phrase, and then backs off. That's instinctual. ... She takes breaths sometimes where an adult would not, but that's just because she's young and little. ... She sings from the healthy part of her voice." Jia Tolentino of The New Yorker later called Evancho's YouTube audition for AGT "supernaturally blissful", and commented that she delivered "O mio babbino caro" with "graceful phrasing, a controlled, slow vibrato, and a tone that resonates impersonally, like a bell." Critic Tim Page, however, wrote that Evancho "has many years of work ahead of her before she becomes any sort of musician."
Andrew Druckenbrod, of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reviewing Evancho's 2011 Pittsburgh Opera concert, stated that "what was most impressive ... was how musical she was ... her focus on phrasing and an understanding of the emotion in the ... musical numbers." The review also praised "her reverberant chest voice [and] her head voice, hitting the highest register with intonation and purity" and echoed Janis: "That she continues to be greeted with skepticism is unfair. ... Yes, the concert showed that Jackie is a young girl, yet one with artistry to be appreciated now without debating about what her future might hold." Antony Walker, Pittsburgh Opera's music director, said: "she has a very sincere way of singing. ... Her voice has a lovely quality to it. It's very simple singing but it comes from the heart. You rarely hear someone so young with such a beautiful voice". Nekesa Mumbi Moody, writing for Associated Press, commented that, although "there is a youthful quality in Jackie's voice, it's hardly childlike: It's a soprano that deftly traverses the musical scales". Mark Kanny, in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, called her voice "beautifully in tune and well supported. ... Evancho's sincerity of delivery was affecting".
Bob Boilen of NPR wrote, "I simply couldn't believe my eyes and ears. Seeing Jackie Evancho sing for the first time is nearly beyond belief." He called her voice "beyond-beautiful" when she performed "for a stunned audience at the NPR Music offices." A review of her 2011 Sun Valley concert stated that "Evancho transported [her audience] with pure, joyous, unaffected notes". Marcia Adair of the Los Angeles Times commented, in reviewing Dream With Me: [W]hat makes us feel like she will survive the journey from child star to adult performer is her magnificent sense of pitch, her natural ability to shape phrases and the ease with which she performs." Jon Caramanica, in The New York Times, reviewed her Avery Fisher Hall concert: "In the first half of the show Ms. Evancho often receded, but toward the end of the night she found purpose, delivering 'A Time for Us' with punch, and closing out Sarah McLachlan’s 'Angel' with what felt like real yearning".The Wall Street Journal called Evancho's 2011 performance of the song "Angel" on the Tonight Show "moving".
Evancho in January 2013
A San Francisco Chronicle review of a 2012 concert judged her singing "an impressive thing to witness, and Evancho's technical precision and enormous range only serve to make it seem less fluky", but felt that "every selection sounded alike". A reviewer for The Denver Post wrote that Evancho "displayed her famous combo of poise and articulation". A Naples Daily News review stated: "Her poise. Her control. Her range. ... Her voice and her performance exhausted all of the superlatives in the dictionary." In 2013, an Atlanta reviewer commented: "Her pure and well-formed vowel sounds touched the hearts of everyone at the concert." A review in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution called Evancho "awesomely talented" and "technically flawless".The Buffalo News reviewer wrote: "there is a poignancy to the sound of this mature voice coming out of this child. Her high notes are a joy."
2014 and later
In 2014, Chis Payne commented for Billboard magazine: "Evancho’s stratospheric vocals are of course impressive for someone her age, though pipes like this are incredible for just about anyone." in 2015, the reviewer for Digital Journal wrote: "The control she displays over her voice is tremendous, and she tackles the high notes ... effortlessly, showcasing her angelic vocals and piercing pipes."Robin Leach wrote of Evancho's 2015 concert in Las Vegas: "She’s still got the voice of an angel. It’s remarkable, and her power is growing as she grows up. [She] had the audience on its feet with wild applause at the end of every song". Some reviewers, beginning in 2015, noticed a lack of connection with the text; a review in The Washington Post called her voice a "bell-like instrument, devoid of any messy human emotions [with] an ethereally floating tone. ... But imagine what Evancho can achieve once she stops obsessing over just sounding pretty, and actually listens to the words she’s singing." Reviewing one of Evancho's 2016 concerts, Steve Barnes similarly wrote for the Times Union that her voice is "an instrument of pristine beauty. It peals with the purity of bells and lofts tones that shimmer with celestial iridescence" but that her performance lacks "an apparent interpretive style or emotional connection to the material".
A chapter in the 2016 book, Voicing Girlhood in Popular Music: Performance, Authority, Authenticity, by Dana Gorzelany-Mostak, Assistant Professor of Music at Georgia College, is devoted to analyzing Evancho's career and influence. Gorzelany-Mostak writes:
Despite her commercial success, a vocal cadre of critics, journalists, and bloggers have not always been kind to Jackie Evancho. Classical crossover’s excessive sentimentality and reliance on [spectacle] often provoke the disdain of critics from the worlds of both popular music and opera, but perhaps the vitriol has just as much to do with the singer’s age and gender. Young girls frequently become the scrutinized objects of the public’s gaze. ... [T]he cluster of behaviors customarily defined as "girlish" are frequently devalued, mocked, and marginalized. ... Throughout history prodigies have been received in a similar manner, as the public would rather dismiss or devalue their accomplishments than accept evidence of extraordinariness. ... With her embodiment of both sheltered innocence ... and hyperability ... [Evancho] expands the fan base for classical crossover, dethrones elitist conceptions of opera, challenges conventions of the classical canon, and forges a new path for the next cohort of girl performers who have the courage to follow in her footsteps.
Will Friedwald wrote of Evancho's 2017 concert series at Café Carlyle, that "this superhuman voice is housed in the person of someone relatively inexperienced in terms of relating to an audience and especially in a New York nightclub. (It will be years, if ever, before she can connect with a crowd like, for instance, Marilyn Maye.) ... She covers a lot of bases musically. ... Her rendition of "Music of the Night" is especially moving. ... Hearing Jackie Evancho in such an intimate space is a rare chance to experience perfection at close proximity." Linda Amiel Burns praised Evancho's voice but thought that some of the song choices were odd, and that sometimes "it was difficult to understand the lyrics". She felt that Evancho sounded more comfortable in her classical selections, but that pop songs require "a different vocal technique with more emphasis on the lyrics ... she has to watch her phrasing ... breathe in the right places, and find the deeper meaning and longing that the song expresses."
Evancho appeared on the National League of Junior Cotillions' list of "Ten Best-Mannered People of 2011" for "demonstrating humility and politeness as a young performer." She was honored in 2012 by the Senator John Heinz History Center at its 20th Annual History Makers Award Dinner as one of five "distinguished Pittsburghers ... recognized for their exceptional contributions to the history of Western Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world". Evancho was the youngest person ever to be so honored. The Kean Quest Talent Search, since 2011, has given an annual "Jackie Evancho Award" to a contestant who "exemplifies courage and motivation and pushes through to follow their dreams." In both 2011 and 2012, Billboard magazine named Evancho to its list of "21 Under 21: Music's Hottest Minors". In 2017, Evancho was named to the "2018" Forbes "30 under 30" list of musicians.
Billboard ranked Evancho the No. 1 Classical Albums Artist of 2011, as she released three of the top four albums on the Billboard 2011 year-end Classical Albums chart. She was the No. 10 Billboard 200 Artist of 2011, and the No. 3 Internet Albums Artist.Billboard ranked Evancho the No. 2 Classical Albums Artist of 2012, as three of her albums ranked in the top seven albums on the Billboard 2012 year-end Classical Albums chart. She was the No. 37 Billboard 200 Artist of 2012.
Billboard ranked Evancho the No. 5 Classical Albums Artist of 2013, the No. 7 Classical Albums Artist of 2014 and the No. 4 Classical Albums artist of 2015, as Awakening was the No. 3 classical album of 2015. Evancho was ranked the No. 12 Classical Albums Artist of 2016, as her 2016 holiday album, Someday at Christmas, was the No. 27 best-selling classical album of 2016, and Awakening was the No. 31 best-selling classical album of 2016. Evancho's 2017 album, Two Hearts, was her seventh consecutive release to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart.
^The special contains the same songs, except that it omits "A Mother's Prayer" but includes "Dark Waltz", which is not on the CD, and "Mi Mancherai", which is a bonus track on the Target Deluxe Edition. See the track listing.
^Dream With Me, and Foster's production of the album, are discussed in detail in the 2013 Ph.D. dissertation of Evancho's uncle, composer Matthew Evancho. See Evancho, Matthew. "Dissertation: An Original Composition"Archived August 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine., The School of Music, Louisiana State University, May 2013
^"Dark Waltz" was written for Hayley Westenra's 2004 album Pure. Evancho recorded the song in 2009 on her album Prelude to a Dream and again for her 2011 PBS special and her DVD Dream With Me In Concert.
^ abRuggieri, Melissa. [music.blog.ajc.com/2013/06/01/concert-review-tony-bennett-jackie-evancho-make-musical-magic "Concert review: Tony Bennett, Jackie Evancho make musical magic"], The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 1, 2013, accessed February 22, 2017
^Gorzelany-Mostak, Dana. "The Curse of the 'O Mio Bambino Caro': Jackie Evancho as Prodigy, Diva, and Ideal Girl" in Voicing Girlhood in Popular Music: Performance, Authority, Authenticity (Warwick, Jacqueline and Allison Adrian, eds.), Routledge Studies in Popular Music, Routledge (2016), pp. 113–117 ISBN1317424603