Richland's Jackie Evancho places 2nd on 'America's Got Talent'
September 16, 2010 8:00 AM
Classmates of Jackie Evancho react to her second-place finish as they watch the television show at the auditorium of Eden Hall Upper Elementary School in Pine-Richland School District.
Kathrine Kelly, 8, holds up her sign at the Kean Theater at St. Barnabas in Gibsonia where well wishers gathered to watch Jackie Evancho on "America's Got Talent."
Jackie Evancho on stage during Wednesday night's finale.
By Maria Sciullo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Clearly, Jackie Evancho has talent. But America has decided that Michael Grimm does, too.
Mr. Grimm, a laid-back singer from Mississippi, took home the top prize on NBC's "America's Got Talent."
Operatic singer Jackie, a fifth-grader in the Pine-Richland School District, was runner-up and will be one of the headliners on a national tour.
Moments after the results were announced on live television Wednesday night, the 10-year-old from Richland embraced the winner and declared, "The experience has been amazing. I have loved every moment."
The outcome was met by boos from her classmates at Eden Hall Upper Elementary who were watching in the school auditorium. But then they began chanting "Jackie! Jackie!" as they had done all night.
Before the results were announced, the 400-plus students at the elementary school were handed the green-and-white equivalent of Terrible Towels and they twirled them frantically as they chanted "Jackie! Jackie!"
Kids revved up on Smiley cookies raced in the hallways when they weren't watching the finale on three auditorium screens.
"When this all started, we weren't in school yet," said school Principal Robert Cooper. "So the excitement has really been building the last week and a half. We are so pleased she's gone so far."
Less than a mile down the road from Jackie's grade school, there was a polite but enthusiastic crowd of about 150 Jackie supporters at the St. Barnabas Health System Kean Theater to watch the show.
Jackie competed in the St. Barnabas talent show, "Kean Idol," and those who knew her from her appearances there in 2008, 2009 and last April said they're not surprised by her popularity.
"I remember her many times backstage as just being this typical little girl, giggling and interacting with the other kids," said Kathleen Brenneman, director of public relations and advertising for St. Barnabas Health System.
"Then she'd get on stage and you hear 'this voice.' She was incredibly poised as a 7-year-old, but I remember her fiddling with her dress."
The rally at St. Barnabas took place in a well-appointed, 350-seat theater. A 12-foot screen, flanked by large photos of Jackie, played video from past Kean Idol competitions.
"I can't help but look at her and think she's so amazing," said Jessica Saenz, 17, of Latrobe.
Jessica won Kean Idol this year, but finished behind Jackie two years ago. She was upset when the Internet was abuzz with rumors that Jackie was lip-synching on her first appearance on "America's Got Talent."
"It's crazy because amazing as she is on television, she's better live," Jessica said.
Although viewer voting for Jackie and the other three finalists occurred Tuesday night, the big decision was spun into a two-hour TV spectacular in Hollywood.
Jackie appeared a bit star-struck Wednesday night when she sang "Time to Say Goodbye" with her idol, Sarah Brightman.
"It's just amazing to be here with her," Jackie said.
"Jackie is a beautiful, wonderful little girl," replied Ms. Brightman.
Fans with tickets to the TV show lined up on the sidewalk outside the Los Angeles recording studio hours ahead of time to get a spot in the 550-seat auditorium.
Terri England, 47, who sings in a female choral group and describes herself as a huge Jackie fan said she stood in the regular fan line for four hours for the opportunity to see Jackie live.
"The clarity of her voice, it just engulfs you and you're totally absorbed into what she sounds like. From a singer to a singer, it's unbelievable that that voice is coming out of her," said Ms. England, who lives in Canyon Country, a suburb in northern Los Angeles County.
In the VIP line, a number of children came to see the show with their parents, including a number of little girls in fancy dresses.
Among them were Isabella Rickel, 5, of Beverly Hills, and her twin Mariella, who wore long, springy curled hair and matching gowns. Asked what she thought of Jackie, Isabella responded with unvarnished enthusiasm: "I love her!" she squealed.
"She's just a really good opera singer. She's very pretty and when I see opera singers they're really old but they're good. She's really good and she's tiny."
The twins came with their mother and father, Ken Rickel, who runs a hedge fund office in Bethel Park.
During the final competition on Tuesday night it was clear that Piers Morgan -- one of the three celebrity judges -- was rooting for Jackie.
"That was perfection," Mr. Morgan said after Jackie sang "Ave Maria."
The song choice was not a surprise -- it's been one of Jackie's go-to numbers for public appearances and she recorded it for her "Prelude to a Dream" CD.
Slippery Rock's Lena Skeele, 13, competed against Jackie in the 2008 and 2009 Kean Idol competitions. She's been up on stage for years and said that love of performing trumps nerves for most singers.
"I'm just very happy for Jackie because she is such a sweet little girl. Whenever we'd talk backstage, she was just so polite. I'm happy to see someone I know from Pennsylvania doing so well."
In addition to Mr. Grimm, Jackie's competition included another vocalist, Prince Poppycock, of Los Angeles, also known as John Quale.
He may have made a serious mistake in choosing to sing "Nessun Dorma," from Puccini's "Turandot." It's a poignant song, and he sang it well and seriously, but serious has not been the Poppycock trademark.
the Prince -- who performs dressed as a foppish dandy -- was chastised by Mr. Morgan for not bringing the fun.
"I was giving America a fairy-tale ending, emphasis on the 'fairy,' " said Prince Poppycock.
On Monday, city and county officials proclaimed this was "Jackie Evancho Week."
"She never fails to express the love and pride she has for her hometown," said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
Judging from her fans' response, it would appear Pittsburgh -- and America -- loves her, too.