Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Local News

February 12, 2014

From pop to classical: Dallas pianist plays Cleburne

Cleburne’s Songbird Live owner Tom Burkett continues to bring a variety of music to downtown. Dallas classical pianist Melani Skybell performs this and next weekend having already played two shows last week.

“She played a solo show last Friday,” Songbird owner Tom Burkett said. “But then her husband, Nick Tsolainos, joined her on bass Saturday night and I tell you he was just absolutely great, my new favorite bass player. He’ll be joining her again for this weekend’s shows.”

Born in San Antonio, Skybell said her desire to sing and play piano dates from her youth, passions she carried to Boston University where she majored in classical piano.

“But then I left much to my parent’s chagrin,” Skybell said. “I’ve done alright since so they’re proud of me now, but then I took a detour as a pop keyboardist in the ’80s to play in a rock and pop band.”

Skybell’s membership in that band, Innocent Bystander, began as a lark but soon became a full-time gig.

“I didn’t plan on staying long,” Skybell said. “But they were very successful. We were playing big shows opening for national acts.”

The detour was fun, Skybell said, but she yearned to return to her roots as a classical and jazz pianist and singer. Realizing she had to “retrain” herself, Skybell moved to Dallas to attend the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington. 

A consummate performer, Skybell’s delivery swings, punctuated by moments of fun and surprise as she runs through her set of covers and originals.

“My forte is old jazz standards from the ’30s and ’40s,” Skybell said. “But I’ve written several tunes although I start off with the remakes of the classic songs first to get the audience’s attention and get them on familiar ground then spread out to other things and a few originals.”

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