Music, theatre, art alumni return to campus to help current students

imageTheatre students clustered around the stage in Waterman Theatre to hear advice from three SUNY Oswego graduates who made it big in their chosen profession, as part of the first Tyler Hall Symposium Feb. 6 to 8.

Richard Jay-Alexander, who graduated from the college in 1974 and went on to be executive producer of such mega-hits as “Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables” and “Miss Saigon” and tours by Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters and others, regaled students with stories of life in the theatre and offered some very practical advice about how to get ahead. “It’s hard work. It’s not all red carpet,” he said, reminding them of the healthiness of audition and genuine competition, and urging them to be open to opportunities. “Recognize a door when it opens.”

Jay-Alexander was joined on the theatre panel by film, TV and stage actress Robin Curtis ‘79 and Broadway sound designer Brian Ronan ‘84.

Down the hall, art students were listening to video game character artist Dan Bernard ‘97, high school ceramics teacher Amy Gutter Bernard ‘98, sculptor Joe Chirchirillo ‘75 and art professor Mary Pierce ‘94, while music majors got real world advice from recording engineer Joe Lessels ‘04, music professor Dr. David Belles ‘92 and freelance accompanist Bryan Rurey.

An estimated 600 students connected with the alumni through panel discussions, classes and studios.

“The careers and accomplishments of these alumni are something to celebrate and we are grateful that they’ve shared the stories of their individual journeys with the current students,” said Mark Cole ‘73, chair of the theatre department. “This interaction reminds our students that the Oswego connection begins during their undergraduate years. These alumni were accessible, enthusiastic and encouraging to the students. The visit was packed with career information as well as inspiring passion for the art and craft of the theatre.”

“The panelists were very frank and strong, and they really had a wide variety of things to say,” noted Helen Zakin, chair of the art department.

“Find the people who can help you the most—usually the people are going to be your closest professors,” was advice EA Sports artist Dan Bernard imparted to students. “Building friendships with your closest professors is extremely important. It’s everything.”

The Tyler Hall Symposium was coordinated by the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations as part of the Alumni-in-Residence program, which brings alumni back to campus to share career information with current students. The next symposium planned is for School of Business alumni and students, set for April 17 to 19.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Returning alum—Richard Jay-Alexander (second from right), a Broadway producer and SUNY Oswego alumnus who returned to share career advice with students, looks over costumes for the upcoming production of “Big: The Musical” with students in the Tyler Hall costume shop.

(Posted: Feb 11, 2005)