We now have our first confirmed performer for Donald Trump’s inauguration next month: Jackie Evancho, a former “America’s Got Talent” star, will sing the national anthem.
Evancho announced the news Wednesday on the “Today” show. “I am so excited. It’s going to be awesome,” the 16-year-old soprano said. “I felt really honored to be able to sing for the office. It’s a great honor for me.”
Presidential inaugural committee spokesman Boris Epshteyn tweeted, “She’s an inspiration for all Americans!”
It’s an unsurprising choice for the ceremony following the incredibly contentious election, which has officials preparing for promises of protests and upwards of a million visitors. Singing the national anthem at the inauguration for a figure as polarizing as Trump could be incredibly fraught — especially at a time when something as mundane your choice of cereal can become a political act.
Evancho is about as noncontroversial as performers come. Known as a classical crossover singer, she has performed patriotic songs for numerous official Washington ceremonies during the Obama administration, including singing “God Bless America” at this year’s Independence Day celebration on the Mall and performing at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in 2010.
“That was awesome,” Evancho said Wednesday on NBC. “I got to meet [President Obama]. He’s really nice.”
The past two inaugurations featured legend Aretha Franklin, powerhouse Beyoncé and Kelly Clarkson, who, like Evancho, first gained stardom thanks to reality TV. But there have been rumors and reports (denied by the inauguration committee) that organizers are having trouble locking down major entertainers to perform for the January ceremony. Many pop superstars, such as Beyoncé and Katy Perry, openly campaigned or supported Trump rival Hillary Clinton. As demonstrated by this year’s Republican National Convention, where one of the biggest stars was Scott Baio, the GOP has had trouble booking A-list celebrities when much of the entertainment world is left-leaning.
Elton John’s spokeswoman adamantly denied that the British singer would perform after a Trump transition member said he would. Garth Brooks, who remained apolitical during the election cycle, had signaled he would be open to it, but Variety reported that the country singer wouldn’t perform after all.
And speculation arose that Kanye West — whose recent onstage rants that included support for Trump drew a social-media backlash — would perform during inauguration weekend after the rapper met with Trump on Tuesday in a highly publicized visit.
Evancho got her big break as a 10-year-old YouTube sensation who captivated “America’s Got Talent” judges in 2010. At the time, she was a child with an improbably mature, operatic voice.
“Did you ever swallow a grownup?” judge Howie Mandel joked at the time.
Although she didn’t win that year’s competition, her star rose considerably. That same year, Evancho released “O Holy Night,” which went platinum and was the first of a series of albums to debut in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s classical crossover chart.
Evancho has branched out into other musical styles. She released “Apocalypse” in April, writing on her YouTube page that the single “takes me in a truly pop direction for the first time.”
Her “America’s Got Talent” appearances also got her access to VIP venues where she rubbed elbows with the ultra-famous. Evancho performed on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (where she met Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes backstage). She even went to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., where she met the resort’s owner: Donald Trump.
A picture of Trump and Evancho smiling for the cameras appeared behind her as she spoke Wednesday morning on the “Today” show.
Reflecting on her previous singing duties in Washington, Evancho said on Wednesday: “I felt really honored to get a chance to perform for the president again.”