Return Of The Voice – Patrick Denniston, ’83

Accomplished tenor vocalist and OCC alumnus Patrick Denniston returned to campus to help the College’s current music students and wound up helping himself as well. His appearance was part of the Arts Across Campus series. Denniston gave a recital and vocal masterclass in Storer Auditorium February 13  with Professor Kevin Moore at the piano. He was also joined by Professor David Rudari in a duet.

Denniston (middle) with former OCC Professor of Voice Dick McCullough (left) and current Professor of Voice Jean Loftus (right).
Denniston (middle) with former OCC Professor of Voice Dick McCullough (left) and current Professor of Voice Jean Loftus (right).

In the early 1980s Denniston decided to come to OCC on the advice of two of his music instructors at Palmyra-Macedon Central School, Bill Decker and Lloyd Geise, who were both OCC alumni. “It turned out to be a great decision for me. Like so many people just out of high school, I had a general idea about my interests but needed to find some direction. After two years at OCC I knew I was on the right track studying voice.”

He remembers the professors who were especially influential. “My ability and confidence really took in Richard McCullough’s studio. ‘Mac’ encouraged me to join the Syracuse Opera chorus where I got my first professional stage experience. Dr. Donald Miller was also very inspiring as my music history professor, choir director and even guitar instructor for a semester.”

Denniston received an associate degree from OCC in 1983 and transferred to Syracuse University (SU) where he completed his bachelor’s degree.

While at SU the Chautaqua Opera hired him to sing in their “young artists” program the summer before his senior year where he met his wife-to-be soprano Joan Castrodale. They were married a year later just before returning to sing in the next summer season, much to the amusement of the company director who liked to take credit for bringing them together.

The Denniston’s went together to sing with the Opera Memphis’ educational outreach program, taking live opera to hundreds of school children across Tennessee. “We did everything from driving the van, loading the sets and costumes, performing, tearing it down and moving on to the next school. We did one or two shows a day for an entire school year. The outreach was to children but the education was ours! It was a great time.”

Denniston’s ascent continued when he was chosen to join the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Lyric Opera Center for American Artists where he would remain for three years. He sang supporting roles in over 60 performances while working with repertoire and language coaches almost daily. Fresh out of the program he was invited back to sing leading roles including Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly and Dimitri in Boris Godunov.

“Once word got out that there was a new tenor on the scene life got very busy.  Joan made a decision at this point that she would pour her energy and talent into our one career which enabled us to travel together. Her understanding of my voice and her theatrical sense made her invaluable to the process. Singers need feedback from someone they can trust and I relied heavily on her eyes and ears from the theater.”

Denniston made a connection with a publicist/manager named Edgar Vincent who was the publicity engine behind a veritable “who’s who” of artists including Beverly Sills, Jussi Bjoerling, Ezio Pinza, Leonard Warren, Birgit Nillson, Cecilia Bartoli, Placido Domingo, dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and conductors Erich Leinsdorf,  Leopold Stokowsky and Sir Georg Solti.

“Joan and I met with Edgar and business partner Patrick Farrell at their New York office directly across from Carnegie Hall. After going next door to a recital hall to sing a couple arias, we went back to the office to talk. I mention the artists above so you can appreciate how floored I was when Edgar said he’d like to represent me and also handle publicity later on when it was needed.”

The Denniston’s moved to New York to be closer to auditions and work he’d be doing at New York City Opera. “We were home for a total of only three weeks in 1994 going from one venue directly to another. In retrospect it does seem a little crazy, but you go when and where the work is. I found myself singing leading roles internationally including a debut at La Scala in Milan.”

Denniston’s singing career was cut short over a decade ago when a severe case of shingles, the same virus that produces chickenpox, caused nerve damage to one of his vocal cords. His voice was significantly weakened and he was forced to retire. Vocal rehabilitation helped, but only to a point, so he packed up his music and found other work.

A few years later a friend asked for help for his son who was preparing an audition for college admission. During a lesson Patrick noticed a difference in his own voice that was encouraging enough to cause him to start working at it again. “I worked steadily and slowly over the next two years with voice instructor Dan Marek in New York, and was also helped very much by Dr Robert Sataloff and Peggy Baroody at the Philadelphia Voice Center. It really feels like a miracle has taken place in the reinnervation of my vocal cord, and the rebuilding process from square one gave me an opportunity to reapply the basics of singing to my own voice. I can’t say I’m glad about losing my voice, but the experience has certainly made me a better teacher.”

Denniston’s return to OCC and the opportunity to spend time with students reenergized him. “The experience was surreal. It feels like the same place I remember as a student, only on a bigger scale with this amazing new facility. I saw some of my former professors and felt like getting back to work!”

Denniston offered music students advice based on his career path:

  • When opportunities come up, don’t waste your energy worrying about the things you can’t control like the outcome of auditions, your perceived competition, etc. Pay attention to what you can control, like being prepared as best you can.
  • Later on you’ll be able to be more discerning about what advice or criticism you should listen to, but while you’re at a place like OCC take advantage of the fact that your teachers really do care about your success. Embrace criticism and learn from it.

The Denniston’s live downstate in Rockland County where he is voice teaching privately and occasionally performing.

Amanda Corp

A decade after graduating from high school the future is looking bright for Amanda Corp. She was recently inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. Corp is also a member of the National Society for Leadership and Success. Faculty selected her to be the Nursing department’s Student Representative.

Corp’s journey has been a long one. She graduated from Chittenango High School in 2004 and immediately started taking classes at OCC. A short time later she transferred to a four-year school but realized it wasn’t a good fit.

In 2013 she returned to OCC a different person. She was a mother of three focused on succeeding. “As a mom I have a lot more riding on school now. It’s not just for me, it’s for my children too.

Corp has started working as a Nursing Assistant on the intrapartum floor at Crouse Hospital and hopes to become an RN on that floor after graduating from OCC in May 2015. Her long-term plan is to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and become either a certified registered nurse anesthetists, a nurse practitioner or a nurse midwife and start her own practice.

Corp credits OCC with providing her the opportunity to pursue her dreams. “I love it here. The professors are great. You can always talk to them and ask for help. It’s why I decided to come back here.”

Women’s Basketball Alumni Game

The Onondaga Lazer’s held their first women’s basketball alumni game on Saturday, February 7 at the Allyn Hall Gym. More than 40 women who played at OCC between 2007 and 2014 came back for the game. They enjoyed seeing each other again and rekindling old friendships.

Twin sisters Cara Scalisi, '11 (left) and Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, '11 returned to campus for the Women's Basketball Alumni Game.
Twin sisters Cara Scalisi, ’11 (left) and Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, ’11 returned to campus for the Women’s Basketball Alumni Game.

“It was like we were never apart, we never skipped a beat. It was great to get together again,” said Christina (Scalisi) Martinez, ’11. The event also gave her the opportunity to reflect on her time here. “Me and my twin sister played here and it was probably the best two years of our lives. Head Coach Mike Wheeler was amazing to play for and drove us not only on the court but in the classroom. It propelled me to success in the work field.”

“We talked about holding one of these games for years,” said Wheeler. “Putting together the first one was a big challenge.” Wheeler credits assistant coach Kelly Grinnell with making the game happen. She played under Wheeler at OCC and maintained contact with dozens of former players.

Wheeler enjoyed the opportunity to reconnect and hopes this will be the first of many alumni games. “It’s great to watch everyone grow up. One is a New York State Trooper now. Another has her own graphic design company. It’s wonderful to see them take that next step. I’d like to continue this every year.”

A Career in the Kitchen

High school students considering a career in the hospitality management industry had a chance to see a professional at work. Eric Rose, a chef and adjunct instructor at OCC, brought his utensils to the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central where he was Guest Chef for a day.

Chef Eric Rose shows students how to sear meat in the kitchen at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central.
Chef Eric Rose shows students how to sear meat in the kitchen at the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central.

Rose conducted a question-and-answer session with juniors and seniors. He told them how he became a chef, discussed the different career options for students interested in the industry and explained the hard work and dedication needed to succeed. Rose also put on a cooking demonstration in the school’s kitchen. He showed students how to make a risotto dish with braised beef.

Institute of Technology student Dwan Strout (left)  took a class with Chef Eric Rose at OCC as part of the "Smart Scholars" program.
Institute of Technology student Dwan Strout (left) took a class with Chef Eric Rose at OCC as part of the “Smart Scholars” program.

Institute of Technology senior Dwan Strout is very familiar with Rose. Strout is one of 30 seniors participating in the “Smart Scholars” program. In the morning she takes classes at the Institute of Technology, and in the afternoon she earns college credits while taking classes at OCC. During the fall 2014 semester Strout took a Basic Food Prep class taught by Rose. “It was very challenging and amazing. I loved the class and the total experience with Chef Rose,” said Strout. “I brought back recipes I learned from him and we used them here in school.”

Delivering Healthy Habits to Guatemala

Students in OCC’s Nursing program spent the holiday season thousands of miles from home helping others. Nine students and two faculty members packed up suitcases filled with medical supplies and traveled to Guatemala. Their service learning adventure brought medical care and knowledge to people who desperately needed it. “This trip was the single most meaningful thing I’ve ever done,” said Nursing student Joshua McGinley (Whitesboro High School).

The green liquid is shampoo Nursing students made for residents of Guatemala.
The green liquid is shampoo Nursing students made for residents of Guatemala. Nursing student Marisa Canuso-Reiner (Jamesville-Dewitt H.S.) holds a bottle while student Amanda Pezzulo (Burnt Hills H.S.) pours shampoo into it.

While in Guatemala, McGinley and his fellow students held community health presentations on a variety of topics:

  • Oral hygiene for children
  • The importance of vaccinations
  • Breastfeeding
  • Prenatal Care
  • The importance of good nutrition while pregnant and breastfeeding

Students also went into homes and brought medical care to people. “The personal home visits and informational meetings we held were very rewarding. People were so thankful for what we were doing,” said Shelbie Pidkaminy (Solvay High School).

Students also helped build fuel-efficient stoves in homes which vented to the outside. Residents were used to cooking inside over an open flame without any ventilation, blackening walls and lungs with damaging particles which contribute to significant respiratory problems. “We worked with a mason who only spoke Spanish. Over time we were able to work through the language barrier. The families watched us work and were very thankful,” said Amanda Pezzulo (Burnt Hills High School).

The trip was coordinated by Assistant Professor Lee Berg. When she was a student she took a similar trip to Vietnam and found it to be invaluable. This was the second year in a row she brought students from OCC to Guatemala. “It was another wonderful experience. We believe generations from now people in Guatemala will be living healthier lives because of the lessons our students taught them,” Berg said.

Along with Berg’s leadership and the assistance of Assistant Professor Dianna Lewis Brewster who accompanied her, the trip would not have been possible without the generosity of numerous businesses and organizations:

  • Welch Allyn contributed lightweight medical equipment such as digital thermometers, otoscopes, headlamps, and blood pressure cuffs which were all very useful during home visits. They also donated two bags filled with beanie babies which the children of Guatemala loved.
  • M&T Bank donated $5,000 toward the trip and also brought our trip to the attention of Northern Safety which donated first-aid kits and replacement supplies for the kits. Students used several ice packs, antiseptic wipes and dressing change supplies on the trip.
  • Johnson & Johnson gave coloring books in Spanish for the children of Guatemala.
  • Wegmans contributed $1,000 which was used to purchase over the counter medicines, vitamins, first-aid supplies and toothpaste.
  • Salvation Army hosted the first fundraiser for the trip and also donated toys for the children of Guatemala.
  • The OCC Foundation, Nursing Department and entire Campus Community also contributed in various meaningful ways.

Erik Henning

Erik Henning’s journey to OCC has taken him on a long and wonderful path. After graduating from Central Square High School in 2006 he went on the road for several years playing bass in the local band “Polar Bear Club.” “In between touring I would work various jobs to help make ends meet. It was fun but eventually I realized I wanted to do something different with my life.”

His desire for higher education brought him to OCC where he is now a Mathematics and Science major. “I love it here. I love the class sizes and all of the different people I meet. Sometimes I’m the oldest person in my class, but often times I’m not.”

When Henning isn’t in class or doing school work he’s waiting tables at popular Armory Square restaurant Pastabilities. “I love my job there. The people I work for are great to me. They allow my work schedule to match up perfectly with my class schedule.”

Henning’s plan is to transfer to either SUNY Cortland or Syracuse University, earn a bachelor’s degree in communication science disorders, then pursue a master’s in speech pathology.

In September 2013 Henning married the former Julia Coerper, an OCC grad who is pursuing a master’s in special education at SUNY Cortland.