East Patchogue resident Ana Salvemini, a backup singer for Gloria Gaynor,...

East Patchogue resident Ana Salvemini, a backup singer for Gloria Gaynor, poses at Mirimar Beach East Patchogue Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

When Gloria Gaynor sings her disco classic "I Will Survive" for the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, she’ll be speaking for all the people who made it through a difficult 2020. One of them, Long Island native Ana Salvemini, will be on stage singing with her. A member of Gaynor’s touring band for several years, Salvemini says she expects this particular performance to strike an emotional chord.

"‘I Will Survive’ has been a song that’s brought strength and hope to people for decades," says Salvemini, 40. "I couldn’t think of a better song to cap off 2020."

Gaynor’s performance is one of several that will ring in the New Year. Jennifer Lopez will headline ABC’s "Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest," which also features Billy Porter, Cyndi Lauper and Jimmie Allen. NBC’s New Year's Eve production, with host Carson Daly, will include Jason Derulo, Busta Rhymes, Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. The ball will drop, as always, but there will be no live audience – a safety precaution to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus that has killed more than 310,000 Americans and brought the country’s economy to a near standstill.

Salvemini has felt the economic effects of the pandemic directly. Like many musicians, she says, her work has all but dried up. What’s more, she’s part of a two-musician household: She and her husband, Jimmy Salvemini, who live in East Patchogue, perform in bands together and rely largely on weddings for their livelihood.

"It has been a struggle. We are both full-time musicians -- or we were," she says. "All the gigs that were booked have been either canceled or postponed."

Ana, who was raised in Sea Cliff and Glen Cove, and Jimmy, from East Patchogue, met during karaoke night at a Smithtown bar some 20 years ago. Jimmy, ten years Ana’s senior, had already been through the music-industry mill: As a 15-year-old contestant on the television show "Star Search" in the mid-1980s, Jimmy caught the eye of Luther Vandross, who would go on to produce the teen singer's debut album. Jimmy was managed by his older brother, Larry Salvemini, at the time. When Vandross took the brothers out to celebrate the album’s completion in Los Angeles, his car collided with two other vehicles and Larry, 27, was killed. Vandross later settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought against him by the Salvemini family.

"I was Luther’s protege, I learned everything from him, how to carry myself, how to sing," Jimmy says. After the accident, he never spoke to his mentor again. "Larry was everything to me," he says. "It was a tremendous and tragic loss for me. I think that’s what made me draw inward and start writing songs."

Ana says it was probably inevitable she would end up with another musician (she and Jimmy married four years ago). "It’s an alternative world, when you do something that’s not 9-to-5 and you do something creative," she says. "It’s a certain mindset that people have to understand."

Ana’s connection to Gaynor came when the disco singer played a show in Patchogue in 2013; a mutual friend, whose band served as the opening act, introduced the two. When Ana heard a year later that Gaynor needed a backup singer, she recorded herself singing on her iPhone and submitted the file as her audition. In short order, Ana was hired and found herself getting on a plane to perform with Gaynor in Portugal. She’s been a regular touring member of Gaynor’s band ever since.

"We consider her our No. 1 person in the group," Gaynor says of her colleague. "She’s an extremely talented and beautiful singer. She’s a wonderful addition to my show and I’m grateful to have her."

While waiting for Ana’s New Year’s Eve show, the Salveminis haven’t been idle. They recently launched a new event company, AMP DJ/Band Hybrid, and launched a webpage, ampdjbandhybrid.com, to pull in business. The concept: An all-purpose music group with three singers, all of whom can function as DJs, plus a singing drummer. Couples can also ask the Salveminis to write and play a personalized wedding song.

"From traveling around the world and performing in all kinds of places, both of us were trying to figure out: What’s an innovative, unique thing we can offer?" says Jimmy. "And I think it means something to us as well trying to start a business in the midst of the pandemic."

Adds Ana: "Being entertainers, our lives screeched to a halt with all of this. But we found a way to pivot and really grow through it."

Top Stories

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months