By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Creative Forces Make Their Mark on the World

Passionate Orange alumni navigate imaginative pursuits into dream careers.

Syracuse University has long been a beacon of artistic and creative excellence. From the founding of the nation’s first fine arts college in 1873 to current forays into computational creativity, the University has consistently produced talented alumni—actors, artists, musicians, thinkers. “My professors helped me understand music and life,” says Margaret Luthar ’05, a Los Angeles-based, Grammy-winning recording engineer. Her story is one of many that shows how the power of the creative and performing arts—when combined with rigorous scholarship—fosters empathy and understanding in a complex world.

Sara Villagio Draws on Real-World Training to Elevate Carnegie Hall

Sara Villagio on stage.

As a work-study student, Sara Villagio ’04 often edited concert programs for the Setnor School of Music—a skill that helped land her a job at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Today, the former music industry major is the chief marketing officer of Carnegie Hall, one of New York City’s oldest, most venerable cultural institutions. She also is a member of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Council. “Syracuse gave me real-world experience that I combined with my knowledge of music,” says Villagio, who played flute in Syracuse University Bands and produced the school’s annual PRISM concert. Interestingly, the sister of a fellow Symphony Band member helped open doors for Villagio at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where she worked for 11 years, and at Carnegie Hall, which she joined in 2017. “Keep in touch with your classmates in a meaningful way,” Villagio advises, “because you never know where or when you might need them.”

Reid Scott Works ‘Outside the Lines’ to Achieve Hollywood Stardom

Reid Scott portrait.

Actor Reid Scott ’00 has made a career out of playing jerks, but as Esquire magazine recently confirmed, he’s quite different in person—a “relaxed, candid foil to the big-mouthed characters he’s known for.” Scott credits professors like Geri Clark for developing his incredible range. “The intensity and emotion that she brought to her scene study classes were exactly what I craved as a young artist,” says the Screen Actors Guild Award winner, who recently played talk-show host Gordon Ford in the Amazon series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Attending Syracuse was a forgone conclusion for Scott, whose paternal grandparents Robert ’47 and Shirley Weiner ’42, G’46 were alumni. Intent on becoming a director and screenwriter, he switched his focus to acting and earned a degree in drama. His most popular roles are those that audiences love to hate, like Dan Eagan in HBO’s Veep and Brendan “Brando” Dorff in TBS’ My Boys. “Working outside the lines is something I learned at Syracuse,” admits the Venom star, whose film resume is equally prolific. “It’s set the tone for my career.”

Anwar Nasir Helps Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Hit All the Right Notes

Anwar Nasir holds microphone and speaks in front of audience.

When Anwar Nasir ’06 took over the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in 2021, he believed that not being a conservatory-trained musician was an advantage. “I see things with fresh eyes,” says the former professional dancer, who became only the second Black executive director of a major American symphony orchestra. Nasir has since propelled the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra—the state’s only full-time professional orchestra—into new artistic and cultural territory. “Majoring in communication and rhetorical studies prepared me for a career in arts administration,” says the Philadelphia native, who previously worked for the Omaha Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and Hollywood Bowl. Nasir applauds the University, where he serves on the VPA Young Alumni Council, for honing his “analytical skills and creative passions.” “Take advantage of all that Syracuse University has to offer,” he told graduates at the 2023 VPA Convocation. “You’re part of a vast network of people who want you to succeed.”

Grammy Winner Margaret Luthar Engineers Audio Innovation

Margaret Luthar in sound booth.

Almost any conversation about the “music biz” on campus evokes the names of professors like Jim Abbott G’16, Dave Rezak and the late Doug Soyars. “They helped me make the connection between art and technology,” says Margaret Luthar ’05, a music industry graduate. That’s deserving praise from someone with such a varied a background. Luthar is a broadcast engineer at National Public Radio as well as a freelancer at Dark Sky Mastering. “One of the reasons I went to Syracuse was the broad curriculum,” says the L.A.-based, Grammy-winning engineer. This has enabled her to excel in nearly every musical genre, live and in the studio, in the United States and Norway, where she pursued post-graduate studies. “I attribute my versatility to my time at Syracuse,” adds Luthar, who has worked for Chicago Mastering Service and Welcome to 1979 in Nashville. “My professors were accessible, helping me understand music and life.”

Syracuse Is a Family Affair for Artist Jill Leary

Jill Leary poses outdoors.

When Jill Leary ’91 was applying to college, she wanted a self-contained art school within a major research university. “The School of Art was the perfect fit,” says Leary, who majored in arts education. “I lived and interacted with students from lots of different backgrounds.” She also worked with Professor Emeritus David MacDonald H’23, who convinced the one-armed artist that anything was possible. “I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if it weren’t for him,” confides Leary, who owns and directs Railyard Arts Studio in downstate New York. A member of the VPA Council, she is a practicing artist, certified arts educator and nationally recognized fundraising expert. But Leary’s greatest accomplishments are undoubtedly her two girls, one of whom, Kelsey ’26, majors in art photography. “Life moves pretty fast,” says Leary quoting Ferris Bueller. “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Updated on

Also of Interest

Aarick Knighton works on laptop in courtyard.

Syracuse Alumni Turn College Town into Hometown

Graduates speak to the success they’ve found in Central New York.

Read more
Students sitting outside with tray of foraged foods.

Syracuse University Stories

The Orange story has thousands of chapters. Discover some of the people, programs and research that fuel Syracuse University's undeniable spirit.

Read more