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Are We Ruining Prodigies?
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Author: Tim Page
Talented young musicians run the risk of burning out early

The author G.K. Chesterton called the act of stealing a child’s toy the cruelest crime of all. But what if childhood itself is stolen away?

By now, some of you may have run across a certain young soprano named Jackie Evancho. The 11-year old from Pittsburgh, introduced to the public on the television program “America’s Got Talent,” has since gone on to release two full-length albums, which have collectively sold several million units. PBS went so far as to present a filmed “live concert” of her album “Dream With Me” on “Great Performances,” once the domain of Leonard Bernstein, Vladimir Horowitz and the Metropolitan Opera.

Jackie Evancho

 

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By certain standards, Evancho may now be a “superstar,” as Andy Warhol would have understood the term. But she has many years of work ahead of her before she becomes any sort of musician — and I fear that this premature and unwarranted exposure will ruin a genuine and valuable talent. A sweet-faced child with a naturally pretty voice is being primed, packaged and promoted as though she were a finished artist. And she isn’t — not yet anyway. Right now she reminds me a lot more of JonBenet Ramsey than she does of Maria Callas. Just what do we hear when we put on a Jackie Evancho recording? “O Mio Babbino Caro” will do for a start. One is startled immediately by the lush sound that Evancho makes, which would never be expected from somebody her age. But then the worries............

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