KSO conductor makes Knox debut on cello during magical evening (Plus: a little scoop!)

KSO Music Director Aram Demirjian chats with hostess Ruth Fielden prior to a performance in her living room last week.

From the Better Late than Never Department is a wonderful item to which Alan and I purchased tickets at the Knoxville Symphony Ball — in 2019!

It was Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Music Director Aram Demirjian’s Knoxville debut playing the cello — along with a wonderful dining experience at the fabulously renovated Cherokee Boulevard home of Ruth and Joe Fielden. (She’s a member of the KSO’s board of directors.)

The event was supposed to have been scheduled in 2020, but you know what happened to 2020. We were just happy that circumstances permitted the very special evening to occur last week. 

Most of us know Aram Demirjian as the charismatic young conductor who joined the Knoxville Symphony in 2016 as the KSO’s eighth music director. He has won numerous accolades for his conducting prowess here. Most recently he was the 2020 recipient of The Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award from The Solti Foundation U.S. 

He is in demand nationally as a guest conductor, frequently taking the baton in front of The Philadelphia Orchestra. 

But even before he was a conductor, he was a musician. He played cello both in his high school and at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School. And he still plays — although not publicly. Last week marked his first time for that since coming to Knoxville five years ago. He was joined by Brian Salesky, artistic director of the Knoxville Opera, on piano and by KSO violinist Sean Claire.

The evening was so much fun. Most of it was outdoors, which was a relief as the COVID numbers in our community are becoming worrisome again. I had not been in the gorgeous home, which used to house the University of Tennessee presidents and their families, since we went there for a UT event many years ago. The Fieldens have turned it into a magical place. It was so generous of them to offer it for this great occasion benefiting the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. 

Here’s a view of the beautifully renovated house from the backyard.

The view of the river is really the reason the Fieldens purchased the property, Joe Fielden said. I asked him if they used this fire pit often. “We used it yesterday!” he said.

They replaced the tennis court with this pretty saltwater swimming pool. (That’s Joe.)

Sylvia Peters and Susan Arbital arriving for the cocktail reception that would precede the performance and dinner.

Aram with Natalie Haslam.

Kay Clayton with Bob Lederer, left, and Jim Haslam.

Violinist Sean Claire with Gwenda Goggin, left, and Tracy Carico.

Michael and Judith Foltz, left, with Sheena McCall and Jon Agazzi.

Joe and Sharon Pryse.

Loved her shoes, which she said glow in the dark! Where’s a black light when you need one??

Relaxing before the performance, from left, Brian Salesky, Aram Demirjian and Sean Claire.

Knoxville Symphony Development Director Mary Sue Greiner and Sean Claire.

Joe Fielden poses with his daughter-in-law, Abi, and grandson, Jacob.

Abi knitted Jacob’s cute outfit herself!

Aram with artists Richard Jolley and Tommie Rush.

Speaking of Richard and Tommie, the Fieldens are big collectors of their work.

This huge piece by Jolley is something he sketched on a cocktail napkin when he and Rush were dining at Galatoire’s in New Orleans! It was reproduced on a grand scale and fit just perfectly in the downstairs entrance of the house. As you can see, it’s a representation of Rush and Jolley dining at the famed eatery.

Some other pieces by Jolley on display.

Here’s a scoop for you! A television crew from PBS was in Knoxville recently taping a piece about the Richard Jolley glass installation at the Knoxville Museum of Art and a special orchestral piece that’s been commissioned with the same theme, which is “Cycle of Life.” 

Rush has seen outtakes from the segment, which will air Dec. 10, and she said it shows Knoxville in an incredibly positive light. “They all loved Knoxville!” she said. 

The orchestral piece will debut April 21-22, 2022, as part of the Moxley Carmichael Masterworks Series. Can’t wait! (Get your tickets.)

Meanwhile, back out on the patio, folks were still enjoying the reception.

Aram posed with his sweet wife, Caraline.

Mingling was so much fun in such a beautiful environment.

Pretty in pink! From left, Sharon Pryse, Natalie Haslam and Dr. Ruth Bailey.

Miles Davis of By The Tracks Catering offered smoked salmon appetizers.

In fact, all three passed appetizers were my favorites that caterer Nancy Kendrick makes. Clockwise from top left, pimento cheese bites with bacon, mini crab cakes, and the smoked salmon.

Soon, we were summoned into the living room and Joe welcomed everyone and introduced the performers.

Aram explained what would be performed.

From left, Sean Claire, Brian Salesky and Aram Demirjian.

Not to be a fan girl, but here are some photos of Aram in action. Will post a video at the end of this.

Josh and little Jacob Fielden enjoying the music.

Then — dinnertime!


Seating on the veranda on a lovely night.

View from the dinner table.

Sun setting on the patio where the reception had been held.

Watermelon soup! You can’t get more refreshing than that!

Pan seared halibut with eggplant couscous, wilted greens and pickled ramps.

Sumac-rubbed venison, sweet potato cassoulet, foie gras jus. (Alan ate mine! No can do venison or foie gras.)

Peach tart with bourbon pecan drizzle. Wow.

Alan Carmichael and Judith Foltz enjoying the festivities and camaraderie at our table.

Here’s Aram Demirjian in his Knoxville cello debut:



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5 Responses to KSO conductor makes Knox debut on cello during magical evening (Plus: a little scoop!)

  1. Gay Lyons, on August 9th, 2021 at 2:06 pm said:

    Wow! That looks like a sensational evening. Good to see some faces I have not yet seen.

  2. Carolyn Leahy, on August 9th, 2021 at 3:44 pm said:

    Loved the cello piece. The home and setting are incredibly beautiful. I loved the lamp behind Aran as he played. We are so fortunate to have him.

  3. Ron Feinbaum, on August 9th, 2021 at 3:54 pm said:

    So sorry we missed it but we had a conflict. Looks wonderful.

  4. Gina, on August 9th, 2021 at 6:02 pm said:

    Glad you are a fan girl! So am I! Lovely event!

  5. Nancy Mott, on August 10th, 2021 at 1:37 pm said:

    Wow! What a lovely piece on what must have been a lovely evening!! Almost like being there. Thank you!

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