Last Sunday I had a piece in the Times about crossover soprano Jackie Evancho. She’s difficult to write about for several reasons, not the least of which being that she’s a child. On the other hand, her parents have decided it’s ok for her to be in the limelight, so it’s only fair that she plays by the same rules as everyone else.
In any case, the crux of the situation from this vantage point boils down to this:
The task [of quantifying Evancho] is made even more difficult by the fact that Evancho is, in many ways, unremarkable. She has said on several occasions that she doesn’t practice much, and though her website lists 10 full-length concerts between now and September, many of her gigs are one- or two-song appearances.
By way of contrast, the pre-college divisions of major conservatories are full of sixth-graders who can play circles around her. Anglican and Episcopal cathedral choirs have spent 400 years training children from age 7 to sing extremely difficult music in a manner antithetical to Evancho but still highly stylized and not entirely natural. Elite gymnasts with Olympic aspirations or ballet dancers with an eye on a pro career have to get their 10,000 hours of practice in before they even reach middle school. All of these children spend hours shuttling between lessons, competitions and training gyms with many living away from home for large parts of the year.
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