Berklee Today

Recollections of Diana, Ray Santisi

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"Diana came into my office for her lesson once, and I asked her to just sing a tune. I recognized immediately that she had a special quality to her voice. I said, 'Don't stop,' and she hasn't. Things have gone really well, and she has crossed over with her audience. You'd expect that she would attract kind of a conservative jazz crowd, but she has reached a much larger market.

"As a pianist, she was always into economy. She has said that she took a cue from comedians Alan King and Jack Benny, whose punch lines were very economical. Diana has always been aware that you don't have to go grandstanding to make good music.

"A few years ago, I was doing a Berklee in Italy trip, and I met up with Tony Bennett there. Diana was playing in town at a little club called the Blue Gardenia. Tony and I ended up getting front-row seats through Diana's manager Mary Ann Topper, who is a friend of mine. After the concert, we went backstage, and found Diana in tears. I told her what a beautiful set she had just played and asked her why she was crying. She said, 'I come out on stage, and sitting in the first row are Tony Bennett and my old piano teacher!'"