Ever since we announced that 11-year-old singing sensation Jackie Evancho, the angelic blond who wowed the jaded judges of America’s Got Talent, would make her debt this summer, I was curious just how good was she and how could a little girl hold a crowd. Boy, did I get my answers. PBS had actually given her a Great Performances special, a banner program usually reserved for operas, orchestras and Broadway stars. I rounded up some Ravinia Festival co-workers and their friends as a Ravinia team to answer phones for the WTTW Pledge Drive, during which Jackie’s Great Performances concert would air. After a mystifying, dizzyfying and a little terrifying crash course in the station’s phone and computer operations and brief introduction to the script we were to use to secure the callers’ donations, we were let loose to accept the calls from the public who had just been watching Jackie on TV. There goes the script. People were so enthralled with the young performer that they were more concerned with singing her praises than going through the pre-drilled motions. They compared her voice to singing legends. They compared her voice to angelic choirs. They compared her to the best concert they ever attended in their own lives. They pledged ever-higher amounts to receive the Jackie CD; no, the DVD; no, the tickets to Ravinia Festival. When phone traffic slowed enough for me to tune into the special for a few minutes I saw what made believers out of so many callers. Check it out for yourself at 7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 7, when Jackie performs her live concert at Ravinia with an orchestra and young pianist Conrad Tao. By the way, we were told that call-ins to the station broke records during Jackie’s concert.
Director of communications