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.”
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: https://www.violinist.com/blog/castadiva/20195/27777/
Here’s a post she wrote about the joys of performing with her amateur flute quartet: https://www.violinist.com/blog/castadiva/20188/27401/