The chorus room of Tyler Hall 41 was humming with excitement as a group of
more than 30 students, faculty and alumni came together to catch up with
old friends and learn more about careers and opportunities in the music
field. The discussion was the opening event for the very first music
department reunion held Sept. 7 to 9, and the six panel members had plenty to
share with current students.
“It’s great to have [them] back here,” said Julie Pretzat-Merchant, music
department chair. “They are a great representation of what we’ve been
doing here (on campus).” And SUNY Oswego music alumni have indeed been
doing great things.
Wendy Adamkowski-Boltash ’96, T.J. Bandla, Allison Capano ’94,
Dani Gottuso ’98, Keith Himes ’82, M ’91 and Kristin MacDonald
’96 shared their journeys from music major to music professional.
Adamkowski-Boltash left the marketing program to become a music major, but
her business sense has helped her to develop an active voice studio and in her
role as a high school vocal coach. Although she has faced challenges in
her career path, she said that dedication and determination are key in reaching
success. “So far I haven’t run into anything I couldn’t handle,” she
said. “I just had to work a little harder.”
Bandla, a 1990 graduate of SUNY Fredonia, is the theatre technical director
of the Oswego High School. Born and raised in Oswego, Bandla spent many
hours rigging lights and equipment for productions in Waterman Theatre during
college breaks. He encouraged students to keep their minds and their
options open. “Jump in when opportunity presents itself,” Bandla
said. “You have to take the risk and do it.”
Now in her 11th year as an elementary strings teacher for the
Cortland City School District, Capano played the viola in the Oswego State
orchestra under the direction of Dr. Jerry Exline. Although introducing
third-grade students to the violin can be less than musically inspiring, Capano
said that she wouldn’t trade anything in the world for what she does. “I
just drive home in silence,” she said with a laugh. She encouraged
students that were interested in pursuing a master’s degree to do so as early
as possible and to keep practicing after graduation.
Gottuso also uses her music training to influence young people as
a non-violence education teacher by day and musical theater and drama
instructor in the evenings. “I was up for a lot more jobs than I thought
(with a music degree),” Gottuso said. She also told students to “be
prepared for life to change [their] plans” and to “be kind and honest –
Himes teaches instrumental and vocal music for the Mexico Academy and
Central School District. “They wouldn’t let me fail,” Himes said of the
music department staff and faculty. His advice to graduating
seniors: be consistent, dependable and resilient. “A lifetime of
failures can teach you more than a lifetime of successes,” he said.
MacDonald said that many people aren’t quite sure what her career is all
about. But her love of music and interest in psychology led to rewarding
experiences in the music therapy field from inner city Washington, D.C., to
Syracuse. The stay-at-home-mom currently gives presentations about music
therapy programs to schools and professional groups and uses her skills at a
day care program every other week. MacDonald told students not to be
afraid to create their own opportunities. “Market yourself,” she
said. “Find out what you want to do and do it.”
Each panel member agreed with MacDonald’s sentiment. “These people
have found the two P’s – passion and purpose,” said moderator Don Levine
’78. “Find those two P’s and you’ll be successful.”
Alumni experienced the music of the Oswego Jazz
Project at Patz on the River restaurant Friday night and guest alumni
Saturday’s schedule was jam-packed with rehearsals for Saturday evening's
concert, campus tours highlighting the new Campus Center and a banquet in
Hewitt Union’s Forum Restaurant.
At the banquet, Pretzat-Merchant presented memory books to emeriti faculty
or family representatives in appreciation of their contributions to the music
department. Graduate comments ranged from the sentimental to the humorous
and more than one chuckle escaped the crowd. Alumni also honored the
memory of James J. “Doc” Soluri, who passed away July 10, 2006, with a reverent
standing ovation. “This is for them (those that came before us) as well
as for us,” said Pretzat-Merchant.
After closing remarks from Oswego Alumni Association Executive Director
Betsy Oberst, guests made their way to Waterman Theatre in Tyler Hall for the
grand finale alumni concert. Generations of State Singers, concert band
and orchestra members, Solid State jazz band players, soloists and more came
together for a spectacular three-hour show. The audience gave a rousing
applause following the jazz band’s performance of “Niteroi” directed by Stan
Gosek and cheered in honor of Doc Soluri who arranged “Show Me the Way” for
jazz band and choir with former director Hugh Burritt.
Other concert highlights included solo piano performances by emeritus
faculty member Anthony Crain, Cindy Josbena and Janine Johnson, emeritus Leon
Carapetyan’s vocal solos and an original electric guitar piece composed and
performed by Emmett VanSlyke. The program also included Concert Band
performances directed by emeriti Jerry Exline and George Cuppernull, a chamber
orchestra piece directed by Juan LaManna, the Oswego State Jazz Ensemble
directed by current director Eric Schmitz and choral numbers directed by
Pretzat-Merchant and Carapetyan.
The concert concluded with a combined Concert Band and choir rendition of
“Battle Hymn of the Republic” and the singing of the Oswego Alma Mater led by
Pretzat-Merchant. The audience stood to its feet and cheered, honoring
the fine music and fond memories of the Oswego music department.
Immediately following the concert finale, Pretzat-Merchant unveiled a plaque
and framed photograph display honoring former faculty members Maurice
Boyd, James "Doc" Soluri, Paul Rogers, Dorothy Hickok and Sylvia Irwin.
Their memory will be ever-present in the Waterman Theatre lobby with these
words: “With deep appreciation to the Founders of the Music Department –
May their music live on in our hearts and minds.”
The weekend concluded with a “Bon Voyage” breakfast in the Campus Center
food court. Many graduates expressed immense satisfaction with the
reunion and anticipate returning to their musical “home” very soon. If
the lasting love of music can be reflected in smiles and laughter, Oswego
alumni will indeed carry that passion with them for years to come.
—Meagan Smith '07
Upper: A three-hour concert in Waterman Theatre featured the music of
Oswego alumni, including Solid State.
Middle: T.J. Bandla, Dani Gottuso ’98 and Kristin MacDonald ’96
were among those sharing their experiences with students in a panel
Lower: Alumni attended a Friday evening jam session at Patz on the
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