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Staller Center

The medical arm of Stony Brook University held its 45th convocation ceremony May 23 at the Staller Center. The event was the first time medical degrees were presented under the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University moniker.

Of the 129 receiving medical degrees, 53 of the graduates were hooded by a family member who has a doctoral degree. At a hooding ceremony, each degree candidate is named and receives a hood. The family members on hand for the SBU hooding included 36 parents, 11 siblings and three spouses, according to a press release from the university. Others were hooded by a faculty mentor.

Graduates, who range in age between 25 and 45, will begin their training this summer at medical facilities in New York state and around the country.

Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, School of Medicine dean, introduced the graduates, and New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker delivered the convocation address.

Kaushansky talked about the obstacles that face the medical profession, including budget deficits that hamstring state hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid cutbacks and malpractice insurance premiums going up. He also reminded the graduates that they now take on the responsibility of life-long learning as advances are continually made in the medical field.

“As physicians you will be frequently in the position to affect life-altering decisions,” he said.

Zucker reminded the graduates that one day they will be in a position to save a person’s life.

“Be daring and help your patients should others turn a blind eye,” he said. “And remember that the stethoscope allows our ears to listen to the patient’s heart sounds, but it’s our heart that hears their words and their life stories.

The convocation speaker also said as doctors manage the challenges such as exhaustion, missed family gatherings and losing patients, they will experience tears of their own.

“You will find yourself as we all have in a room where the tears are your own because a child never had a chance to look with awe at the giraffes at the zoo,” he said, adding that in those times doctors must remind themselves that they did all they could, but it wasn’t meant to be.

“Let those experiences become lessons about being human and ask questions of your mentors and colleagues,” he said. “Foolish is the one who fails to wonder why.”

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Sunday was a magical night. After a full year of work, we offered you, our readers and viewers, the initial screening of “One Life to Give.” Our first full-length film, the story is set at the beginning of the Revolutionary War more than 200 years ago, and is about Nathan Hale, Benjamin Tallmadge, George Washington and the events leading up to the founding of the Culper Spy Ring. The location for this screening was the 1,000-seat Staller Center off Nicholls Road within Stony Brook University, and to my amazement and delight, we filled the auditorium to the point where our general manager had trouble finding a seat just before curtain time. This full house by itself is a most gratifying testimony to your regard and to the pulling power of our newspapers and digital media, especially competing as we were with graduation day at the local high school.

It’s also a lot more. In these chaotic and divided times, I believe we yearn to understand our common origin as a nation and the history that we share. History after all is glue that holds us together and, to the surprise of many students who hate social studies in school, is also the series of fascinating stories about people, personalities and events that help define who we are today. And since our film is focused on local people and events, we share a pride of place. Our area has been dubbed the “cradle of history” because of its brutal occupation by the British, the activities of the spy ring and the military skirmishes during the war. Long Island, in fact, endured the longest occupation of any part of the colonies because its farms and forests, livestock and fish made up the unwilling breadbasket for the major British garrison in New York City.

So viewers came to see the history and the authentic local scenes and events, and the familiar faces of many residents as they served as extras on screen. Also some were simply curious. And by the time the movie was over, I believe there was an enriched sense of community among those in the room. As much as we want to know where we came from, we also enjoy a sense of belonging to a community. One viewer from farther away came up to me at the end and said he wished for that pride in his city. That particularly pleased me because we as publishers of the hometown paper have always sought to strengthen those ties. Strong communities can be a powerful force for good. They also want to get the latest local news by reading the local papers, which is not so bad for us.

Making a film was a new experience. My eldest grandson, Benji, the director of “One Life to Give,” aspires to be a professional filmmaker as his career progresses, and as we saw he has already acquired many filmmaking skills in college, where he is now a senior. He also brought to us for this venture a remarkable hardworking and talented crew of young professionals in front of and behind the camera. Thanks to our local connections, which included local historical societies and carefully preserved sites, we were able to put together an authentic venue for the shoot. The weather was wondrously cooperative, and actors and historic re-enactors of considerable skill joined the team. Local restaurants, costume outfitters, dry cleaners, scenery designers, makeup and special effects people and SBU, among others, made in-kind contributions. Muskets and cannons were procured and brought to the filming site, often among hilarious circumstances. One rule became obvious: No day would go exactly as planned.

A number of generous local businesses helped us meet costs by agreeing to be sponsors, and for their help they received credits before and after the film. Their names will be seen near and far as a number of groups have asked to show the film.

My major contribution was offering my house for the 15 young people and their equipment throughout the shoot. I can tell you there was not a clear view of floor or rug during those 16 days. It was great fun with high excitement but on their next film, the shooting of which starts in two weeks’ time for release next year, they will definitely stay in a hotel.

Stony Brook University’s 2015 Pre-College Concerto winner Samuel Wallach will perform a piano solo at the concert. Photo from Susan Deaver

By Rita J. Egan

The University Orchestra at Stony Brook University is busy rehearsing a fun night of music for family members of all ages. On Tuesday, March 1, they will present their Annual Family Concert, this year titled Musical Humor, on the Staller Center for the Arts Main Stage at 7:30 p.m.

Susan Deaver, conductor of the university orchestra and faculty member at Stony Brook, said the annual concert was already taking place when she began working at the university in 2000; however, up until 2013, it was called the Annual Children’s Concert. 

“We just discovered that the students and parents and grandparents and friends that they came with, everyone had a really good time, so we decided to rename it,” Deaver said.

The conductor said every year there’s a different theme such as magic, outer space, movies, and masquerade. “Every year I try to think of something that we can tie in some classical musical,” she said.

This year Deaver said the 70-member, all-student ensemble will celebrate musical humor, explaining that orchestral music isn’t as stuffy or complicated as many think and often is used in cartoons.

The conductor said attendees can expect to hear pieces such as the “William Tell Overture,” which was used as the “Lone Ranger” theme song, and excerpts from Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of Animals,” where instruments imitate the sounds of creatures such as chickens or kangaroos jumping. The show will also include music from American composer LeRoy Anderson who has written short tongue-in-cheek pieces. Deaver said they are performing one of his pieces titled “Typewriter Concerto,” which replicates the sounds of an old typewriter.

A tradition during the concert is a solo by the winner of the Stony Brook University Pre-College Concerto Competition. “It’s a really great way to feature young talent. We’ve had really good soloists,” Deaver said.

The 2015 winner Samuel Wallach will perform a solo on the piano, the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12. Deaver said each student participating in the competition had a 10-minute slot to perform a movement from a concerto, and a committee of judges decided who was best. She said, “Sam played great. He was wonderful.”

Wallach, a sophomore at Ward Melville High School, said in the month of February, he’s been practicing every Tuesday with the university orchestra and at home with his piano teacher. The young pianist said he’s happy that he won the competition.

Wallach became interested in piano when he started playing with an electric keyboard as a small child. His parents signed him up for piano lessons around the third grade. While he’s performed solo and with a chamber group of four musicians, this is the first time Wallach will be playing with an orchestra. “I don’t know quite how to picture it; I’m excited,” Wallach said.

Deaver said every year the concert includes surprises for the audience, too. Last year at the end of the show, while the orchestra played the theme from “Frozen,” “Let It Go,” someone came on stage dressed as Elsa. The surprise was a big hit with the children who were singing along.

The orchestra also interacts with the audience and gives short demonstrations of the different instruments. Deaver said she asks audience members things like: Who plays string instruments? Who plays wood wind instruments? The conductor said the orchestra members always enjoy the interaction with the audience.

The show keeps children engaged not only by talking directly to them but also by keeping the show to an hour. Deaver said the concert is a great opportunity for kids to hear all the instruments together, and it’s more approachable, because when it comes to orchestral music, “sometimes people think it’s too sophisticated or untouchable.”

“I really hope they are inspired to listen to more orchestral music and music in general. And, for the youngest ones who are not playing an instrument yet, I hope it inspires them to consider studying an instrument. For those who are already studying an instrument, I hope it inspires them to want to achieve even more,” said Deaver. “If nothing else, it exposes them to new and great music, because it’s a very different experience hearing it live, as opposed to a recording or YouTube, because all your senses are really activated, ears, eyes, everything, and there’s perspective,” she added.

Tickets for the concert are $5 and are available at the Staller Center Box Office or by calling 631-632-2787. For further information about the University Orchestra, contact the Stony Brook Department of Music at 631-632-7330 or visit its website at www.stonybrook.edu/music.

Ten nights of independent films you won’t see anywhere else

Katie Page stars in “This Isn’t Funny” to be screened on July 17 at 9:30 p.m. Photo by Peter Borosh

By Donna Newman

Would you love to travel the world but lack the funds? … the time? … the energy? Well, you’re in luck! The 20th Annual Stony Brook Film Festival — which begins this evening at 8 p.m. — will bring the world to you. Travel far and wide in the comfort of a cushioned seat in the Staller Center’s air-conditioned Main Stage Theater on the Stony Brook University campus. Festival Director Alan Inkles says, “Over ten days, [you] will be transported to Germany, the Netherlands, Israel, Mexico, Greece, Egypt, France, Canada, Iran, Belgium, England, Morocco and Algeria.”

Should you prefer homegrown fare, Inkles said, “We have more American films than ever this year. Dramas, comedies and documentaries will be shown on our huge screen, and many of the producers, directors, cast and crew members will attend the Q-&-As following the films.” In sum: There will be something for everyone.

You’ll travel through time during the 10-day festival as well. Be transported to the South in the aftermath of the Civil War (“The Keeping Room”). Find yourself in a Nazi-occupied Dutch village (“Secrets of War”). See how American propaganda films were created during World War II (“Projections of America”). Return to the 1960s in Quebec for a story with heart and music (“The Passion of Augustine”). Tune in to a television debate series in 1968 that created a whole new format for public discourse (“Best of Enemies”).

Revisit the turn of this century and yet another banking scandal (“The Clearstream Affair”). Spend time in the current decade examining women’s rights (“Nefertiti’s Daughters”). Or step out of time into some magical moments in the short films “Freeze,” “A Single Life,” “Wrapped” and “DOT.”

Inkles and his staff have screened more than 700 entries, looking for the best independent features, documentaries and short films available worldwide. The schedule includes 34 films; 19 are feature length and 15 are shorts. Among them are a world premiere and eight films that will have their first U.S. screenings.

“Audiences will get to see many works of true indie spirit, where the filmmakers wear a variety of hats,” commented Inkles. “On Opening Night we’ll have the U.S. premiere of ‘The Man from Oran,’ a drama from Algeria starring Lyes Salem, who also wrote and directed the film. It’s a story set largely in the years following Algeria’s independence from France, that explores the themes of friendship, idealism, politics and betrayal.” Inkles is pleased that Salem will be present on Opening Night.

Perennial festival attendees will recognize the star of the Closing Night feature, “The Passion of Augustine,” a film from French Canada about a small convent school that had become a musical treasure. Céline Bonnier also starred in the 2012 festival entry, “Mommy Is at the Hairdresser’s.” Léa Pool directed both films. Inkles is delighted that Bonnier will attend the screening.

An added feature to this year’s festival is a display of Vintage Film Posters in the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery located on the first floor of the Staller Center. This exhibit of classic movie posters will be open each night of the festival from one hour prior to the first screening until the last screening of the night begins.

This year’s festival is being presented by its newest sponsor — Island Federal Credit Union — a financial institution that has been serving Long Islanders for 60 years. Island Federal has established a 10-year partnership with Stony Brook University that provides philanthropic funding for multiple university projects.

The SBFF runs for 10 nights. Most nights screenings begin at 7 p.m. Starting times for the second film varies. Check the schedule. (In some cases, Q-&-As may delay the start of the second feature.) The Opening Night film begins at 8 p.m. The Closing Night film begins at 8:30 p.m. And there’s a bonus feature on Sunday evening that begins at 6 p.m.

A Festival Pass to see all the films is $85. A $225 Gold Pass includes seating in the section reserved for filmmakers and their guests, as well as tickets to the opening and closing receptions. Individual tickets ($10, $8 seniors, $5 students) will be sold subject to availability. Tickets for the Opening Night and Closing Night receptions are $25 each, also subject to availability.

For more information, call the Staller Center Box Office at 631-632-ARTS or visit www.stonybrookfilmfestival.com.

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