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Creative Endeavors

Pursuing their respective interests lead alumni to fulfilling careers 

 

By Christine McGrath

Back to Her Artistic Roots

Nursing Student Bonnie Astor ’73 Took the Long Way Back to the Arts 

Bonnie Astor

Bonnie Astor at the Class of 1973 50th Reunion, holding up the Statesman that featured her artwork. (Photo courtesy of Stony Brook Advancement) Bottom insert left: Bonnie Astor right: Bonnie Astor with her son Joshua Rao in Alaska

It’s not surprising that Bonnie Astor ’73, an artist on the staff of The Statesman, Stony Brook University’s student newspaper, has carved out a successful career in the arts. But the painter, photographer, and mixed media artist from Long Island City took an unusual path to get there, including 30 years as a nurse. 

When Astor arrived on campus in 1968, she took art classes and was interested in the social sciences. “I wanted to be Margaret Mead. I wanted to be an anthropologist and travel all over the world!” She quickly adapted to life at Stony Brook, joining The Statesman and immersing herself in the music scene. Her career perspective changed significantly after her father’s sudden death at a young age. “I realized that trying to make a living as a female artist might be difficult, so I enrolled in the relatively new nursing program.”

Astor had a fulfilling career as a community health nurse and even spent time in southern India helping to develop nursing staff and an outpatient program at a rural hospital. After working to improve nursing care during the AIDS crisis in California and moving to Seattle with her family to work as a mental health nurse, she started teaching art workshops, igniting her creative passion again. Eventually, she moved back home to New York, eager to reconnect with her roots in the arts. 

Her two paths have now converged as an art specialist at AHRC, where she integrates artists with cognitive and developmental disabilities into the community. Astor is now confident that she is happiest when creating art, especially for non-profits whose goals are similar to hers. 

Astor remains connected to her alma mater in many ways. She was a member of the Stony Brook University School of Nursing Alumni Board during her nursing career. In 2020, she established the Jeffrey Alan Astor Endowed Scholarship Fund for Stony Brook University nursing students studying oncology and pediatrics. The scholarship honors her brother, who passed away from leukemia at only two years old. 

 


Recent art by Bonnie Astor.

tree painting by Bonnie Astor

Daintree Reflections

Sita by Bonnie Astor

Sita

pet portrait of cat

Pet Portrait

painting of Jerusalem hills

Jerusalem Hills

Jerusalem Hills rooftop

New York City Rooftop


Living in Creative Heaven

Moyssi at SBU (Jefferson Airplane, May 1, 1970) Walking towards the stage behind the gym with a friend.

How James Moyssiadis ’70 Ended Up Jamming Lights With the Best Bands in the World

When Moyssi, aka James Moyssiadis ’70, applied for a part-time audio job advertised in The Statesman, he had no idea it would lead to a successful lighting career in the music and entertainment industries. Yes, lighting!

Moyssi began life at Stony Brook in the College of Engineering, studying science for two years before taking a 15-credit semester of independent study. During that time, he rediscovered his interest in art and people. “English composition and humanities may not have been innately engaging as physics, but they were helpful to finding myself a place in this world.” He studied liberal arts while working the stage lights. He also drew cartoons for The Statesman, as well as both alternative student newspapers, and co-operated a student coffee house under the C-wing of the G-quad. But ultimately stage lighting prevailed and paved the way for his successful career.

Moyssi’s brother was a recording engineer in Philadelphia when it was the center of the music universe, so he was familiar with audio recording. What he wasn’t familiar with was lighting equipment. So, when Charlie Blum ’67, the person in charge of campus audio-visual, unexpectedly asked if he knew what a dimmer board was, he said no. He read Stanley McCandless’ classic A Method of Stage Lighting and sussed it out. “After that, I found myself on the ground floor of SBU’s concert series, jamming lights live with the best bands in the world.”

His first big concert was The Chambers Brothers. Moyssi said although McCandless taught him how to place the lights, when the band started playing, he didn’t know what to do! “Charlie [Blum] caught my eye and pumped his hands up and down in time to the music, which I did with a vengeance until the last encore was over,” Moyssi recalled. “After the show, while I was striking the lights, the entire band surrounded my electric lift and broke out in applause. At that moment, I became addicted to lighting live entertainment.”

During his time at SBU, he designed, installed and maintained the stage lighting system in the gym — one of the draws to getting big bands on campus. He also trained and managed the lighting crew, as well as directed stage lights for all major concerts. “I lived in creative heaven for my four years at SBU.” The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band, who considered themselves SBU’s “house bands,” made a big impression because “they gave us complete control over the sound and lights.”

Moyssi credits George Geranios ’68, a faculty member and alumnus who ran the sound at Student Activities Board (SAB) shows, with kickstarting his career. “When George was the sound man for Blue Öyster Cult, he recommended me to The Grateful Dead’s lighting director,” he said. That led to a gig directing stage lights for John Scher’s Capitol Theatre in Passaic, New Jersey. Scher became one of the biggest promoters in the industry, which gave Moyssi entrée to venues in New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area, and to all the artists who passed through them.

Throughout his career, Moyssi applied a unique lighting technique he developed at Stony Brook. “We weren’t able to rehearse with the bands, so I developed a style of stage lighting design-and-direction that allowed us to respond seamlessly to unexpected situations.” Moyssi said that this practice allowed him to provide broadcast quality feature television for MTV and HBO’s Cinemax Sessions “with the unique look and feel of a live concert, but without any costly technical edits.”

 

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Moyssi on stage at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ circa 1973
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HBO/Cinemax Sessions: “Fats and Friends” (recorded June 5,1986), Fats Domino, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ron Wood
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Lighting Traffic at SBU on November 24, 1970, their first U.S. performance of “John Barleycorn Must Die” (Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi pictured).
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Englishtown ’77 Festival (originally “Summer’s End Concert”), Grateful Dead, Marshall Tucker Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage
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Great American Music Fair, Syracuse NY 9/2/75, Beach Boys, Doobie Brothers, Jefferson Starship, America, New Riders of the Purple Sage
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