For Diana Salesky, music is a family affair

Alto Diana Salesky and her father, Conductor Howard Skinner, at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus recently. (Photo by Lisa Thompson.)

I don’t know what you do when you get together with your 89-year-old father. But my friend Diana Salesky and her siblings spend their quality time with Dad by organizing a classical music performance — with him as conductor.

A couple of Sunday afternoons ago, I and about 1,000 other folks, filed into the new Catholic cathedral on Northshore Drive to hear one of those special performances. Diana’s group, the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble, performed a one-hour concert of music by Johann Sebastian Bach. Among the audience members: Knoxville’s very own opera diva, Mary Costa. Wow.

The concert was free and open to the public, an effort by the Diocese of Knoxville to welcome community members — of any faith — to the beautiful new house of worship.

“I think we were all surprised, and absolutely delighted, by the size of the crowd,” Diana said later.

And she was not intimidated about performing with Mary Costa in the house. “I’ve had the opportunity to sing in front of Mary several times and, as you can imagine, she is the most gracious and supportive audience member in existence,” Diana said. “Anyone who has met Mary knows she has an amazing ability to make you feel you’re the only one in the room. She gives you that same feeling when you perform. She’s right there with you at every step, always rooting you on.”

Knoxville Opera General Director Brian Salesky with Mary Costa.

It truly was a family affair as Diana’s husband, Knoxville Opera General Director Brian Salesky, her son, brother, sister, sister-in-law and niece were in the audience, as well.

Diana and her siblings formed the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble in 2018 so that they would have a non-profit vehicle to produce concerts in Colorado, their home state, Tennessee, and Arkansas, where her brother, Kent Skinner, conducts the Arkansas Choral Society.

They’ve produced both small- and large-scale concerts utilizing talent that is local to the areas in which they are performing. For example, last year they did a small concert at Ossoli Circle with roughly a dozen performers. And, earlier this year, they produced Bruckner’s “Te Deum” in Colorado with over 100 performers. (That concert was performed in honor of Diana’s mother after she passed away.)

“We also want to provide opportunities for young performers, as evidenced by the student strings that our concertmaster and solo violinist Miro Hristov assembled for us,” Diana noted regarding this month’s performance.

In addition to the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble, Diana is a member of an amateur string quartet and a flute quartet. And she’s board president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Tennessee. Whew!

If you’d like to read a very touching blog post that Diana recently wrote about singing at the performance in honor of her mother, here’s a link:

Here’s a post she wrote about the joys of performing with her amateur flute quartet:

More than 1,000 people poured into the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus at 4:30 for a one-hour concert. (Photo by Lisa Thompson.)

Ralph Cianelli, left, and Rick Fox pose with Mary Costa.

Most of the ensemble. (Photo by Polly Burch.)

The string section included grad students from various schools recruited by violinist Miroslav Hristov, second from right. (Photo by Polly Burch.)

Everyone raved about harpsichordist Chih-Long Hu. (Photo by Polly Burch.)

From left, Chih-Long Hu, Conductor Howard Skinner, alto Diana Salesky, soprano Abigail Santos Villalobos and cellist Nathan Jasinski. (Photo by Polly Burch.)

From left, Chih-Long Hu, Diana Salesky and Abigail Santos Villalobos.

Conductor Howard Skinner takes a bow. (Photo by Lisa Thompson.)

A view from the choir loft. (Photo by Polly Burch.)

At a reception following the concert, from left, Brian Salesky, Mary Costa, Howard Skinner and his daughter, Teresa Skinner.



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9 Responses to For Diana Salesky, music is a family affair

  1. Alan Carmichael, on September 26th, 2019 at 3:28 pm said:

    Congratulations to Diana.

  2. Georgiana Vines, on September 27th, 2019 at 8:58 am said:

    Had a conflict I couldn’t change by the time I found out about this. I hope Diana has a similar concert in the same venue again soon. Would really like to attend.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on September 27th, 2019 at 11:52 am said:

    Georgiana: I think she’s working on something!

  4. Diana Salesky, on September 27th, 2019 at 5:54 pm said:

    Cynthia, I can’t begin to thank you enough for the support you showed me before, during, and after the concert. On behalf of my family, and the Amadeus Chamber Ensemble musicians, please know that it is people like you who help groups like ours bring great music to the community. We are all incredibly appreciative!

  5. Kathryn Pace, on September 27th, 2019 at 5:58 pm said:

    Congratulations! Wish I could have been there. Perhaps I will be able to attend another concert. Best wishes to Dr. Skinner, Teresa, Kent and Diana. Would love to see you all again. Kitty

  6. Brian Salesky, on September 27th, 2019 at 9:35 pm said:

    The Skinner and Salesky families are most grateful for the outpouring of appreciation we have received from so many folks who attended the Bach concert. Our thanks to Cynthia Moxley for bringing citywide attention to this labor of love which seeks to present musical masterpieces to our communities with outstanding musicians. A special note of gratitude and congratulations to Glenn Kahler, Director of Music and Liturgy at the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, for his tireless efforts to make the magnificent church available for the enjoyment of the ENTIRE Knoxville community. The vision of Mr. Kahler and the Cathedral and Diocese’s clergy is deeply appreciated.

  7. Melissa and Ed Dumas, on September 28th, 2019 at 6:55 pm said:

    Our whole family attended this performance, and were thoroughly blessed by it. The artistry of the musicians combined with the beauty of the cathedral made this a truly transcendent experience for all of us. Many thanks to everyone who made this evening possible, and for the commitment of this community to the support of fine music.

  8. Leslie Parent, on September 30th, 2019 at 8:48 pm said:

    I attended this performance as well as the earlier one by Amadeus Chamber Ensemble at Ossoli Circle, and loved both. What a blessing it is to have these talented musicians share their music with us. It is also so wonderful that the diocese share their beautiful cathedral for all to enjoy such fine music. My thanks to all!

  9. Michael Grant, on October 1st, 2019 at 11:23 am said:

    A truly wonderful performance. Congratulations to Diana and her family for giving us a
    moving concert in such a great venue. (It didn’t hurt that Bach is one of my favorite composers.) I can’t wait to see what Diana and company will do next. Looking forward to it.

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