By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
With the full force of the Toledo Symphony Orchestra at her back, Evie Van Vorhis let her voice soar.
Performing before more than 1,000 of her elementary school peers in the Toledo Museum of Art, the young singer sent the dulcet melody of “Ave Maria” projecting to the very back of the hall.
She was, conductor Sara Jobin said, probably the youngest soprano soloist the orchestra has accompanied.
“That’s was crazy,” Evie said afterward, showing for all her preternatural talent, she’s still a third grader.
Beforehand, she’d admitted, she was nervous. That was quite an admission for a singer who in the past 15 months has sung in dozens of venues large and small.
Her first big break came when she sang the National Anthem for Martina McBride concert at the 2016 Wood County Fair. Since then she’s performed the anthem for the Toledo Walleyes, Bowling Green State University and University of Toledo athletic events, and presented concerts in area nursing homes and senior centers.
With Christmas season near at hand, she has a full schedule – 18 appearances through the end of the year.
That includes auditions for Ohio’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent. Locally she’ll be the soloist at the Bowling Green Veterans Day ceremony, Nov. 11, at Pemberville’s Christmas in the Village Nov. 26, and The Waterville Playshop’s “We Wish You a Broadway Christmas,” Dec. 11 and 12.
Her 30-minute Christmas programs will showcase a variety of songs from “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” to “O Holy Night.”
Evie, who attends Conneaut Elementary, first revealed her talent in the backseat of the family car. She was singing “Amazing Grace,” a song she learned from her grandfather and “Veggie Tales,” in full voice and “moving up the scale.”
She realized that her mother was impressed. “Her jaw dropped.”
Beth Van Vorhis recalled thinking: “What are we going to do with this?”
She inquired about voice lessons, but was told Evie was still too young. But singer Kim Buehler, a popular local vocalist from Sylvania, heard her and said she’d teach her.
“She keeps the lessons fun, not too technical,” Van Vorhis said, an assessment Evie seconded.
Recently, Evie has started taking piano lessons and has already composed two songs.
Evie has perfect pitch as recently demonstrated when on hearing a song on YouTube and noted it was in another key from what she was accustomed to. Buehler confirmed Evie’s observation and playfully called her “some kind of prodigy freak,” Van Vorhis said.
Evie would also like to take up flute as a band instrument.
She takes gymnastics and studies ballet at the Black Swamp Fine Arts School. She’s performed with 3B Productions as well as the Waterville Playshop.
She admires Abby Paskvan, another vocalist from Bowling Green who got a young start and now has a professional career singing gospel. Evie said she’s not met Paskvan though she’s heard her perform on several occasions.
A BGSU connection led to her being on stage with the Toledo Symphony. Lydia Dempsey, a BGSU graduate, was an intern with the symphony and had heard Evie and recommended her.
So on Thursday morning Evie stepped confidently on stage for a Young Peoples Concert attended by students from around the area. “I was just standing up there with a whole audience in front of me. … I was amazed with how many people were there.”
She was also aware that the Peristyle is a historic structure. And it was “cool” to have all those musicians behind her, echoing the phrases she was singing.
All and all, she said, “it was absolutely crazy.”