Evancho Raises Stark Questions about Child Stars and Their Parents

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Child prodigies are nothing new. Mozart began composing at age five, Chopin was performing at seven and Mendelssohn created masterpieces at 16. More recently, Jackie Evancho, an 11 year-old contender in the TV show "America’s Got Talent" topped the US classical record charts last year and became a staple of PBS fundraisers and concert stages. Some believe she can help bring classical music to new audiences.

But while her achievements are celebrated, they also raise questions about how she and other young artists can maintain a career. How far can gifted children be pushed -- and what lies in store for their future?

In this podcast, three guests join host Naomi Lewin: Tim Page, a former New York Times and Washington Post music critic, and a professor of music and journalism at the University of Southern California; Robert White, the operatic tenor and voice teacher who got his start as a child singer in the 1940s; and Bill Palant, a vice president and artist manager at IMG Artists, who oversees the careers of many top singers as well as young up-and-comers.

"You get into this kind of sick thing where it becomes how young you are. It retards the whole idea of growing into a mature adult because your age becomes your enemy. No one cares about what you're doing when you're thirty." --Tim Page

"She sings to millions and millions of people around the planet. Someone listening to Jackie Evancho on 'America's Got Talent' singing this opera aria might -- I hope -- be sparked into thinking 'hey, what's that? That's really pretty. I'd like to know more about this guy Puccini.'" --Bill Palant

"It's the exploitation on one hand by the parents and whoever gets to handle these people that can lead them down the wrong paths and then what the audience is expecting of them. A lot of times, it's an audience that has not spent time with the fine points of really good bel canto singing." --Robert White

Weigh in: Do listen to Jackie Evancho? What should be the role of child stars in classical music?