Thursday, May 28, 2015

Featured Camp of the Month: Pint-Sized Percussion

This month, we feature a new music camp: Pint-Sized Percussion.

New to the Patel Conservatory's schedule this summer, Pint-Sized Percussion is a great way for first through fifth graders to make some noise while learning about the percussion family of instruments.

Due to popular demand, we've recently added another week of the Pint-Sized Percussion camp! (The first week is sold out.)

Pint-Sized Percussion
Jul 27 - Jul 31, 2015
Grades 1-5
1 to 4 p.m.
Cost: $150

The second week of Pint Sized Percussion will feature more music styles.

In this one-week, half-day camp taught by Heather DeRigo, students will learn about and play traditional Orff instruments. They'll also explore world music through various cultural drumming styles including African Djembe, Indian Tabla and Latin Conga Drums.

Students registered for the first week of the camp can add the second week to continue their music journey and build on what they learn.

Make it a full day and save!

Students who register for both Instrument Petting Zoo camp in the morning and Pint Size Percussion in the afternoon will save $50. Our popular Instrument Petting Zoo allows students to explore band and orchestra instruments and helps them discover their musical interests.

Instrument Petting Zoo
July 27-31, 2015
Grades 1-5
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Cost: $150

Register for both and save $50.

For more information, or to register, call 813.222.1002.

For more music camps and classes, visit

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spotlight on Kayda and Thia Sandefur

Kayda and Thia Sandefur could certainly pass for twins. With similar short, bob haircuts and only a year and a half age difference, the two sisters from St. Petersburg are often seen together on Patel Conservatory stages in our theater productions.

In their first Conservatory show, they were even double cast in the same role as Alice in Alice and Wonderland, Jr. Since then, they each have played a variety of roles in our theater productions year after year, including Once Upon a Mattress, A Little Princess and Oklahoma!

“It’s good being close in age, we’re supportive of each other,” said Kayda, 14. “If someone gets a bigger role, we don’t get mad...whether you’re ensemble, or a lead, you should be honored just to be in the cast.”

“We’ve both had leads, and we’ve both been in ensemble, we’re just supportive of each other,” agreed Thia, 15.

Kayda, left, and This in Alice in Wonderland, Jr.
in 2011. Photo by Soho Images.
Although they look alike and perform in the same shows, and share inside jokes and sometimes finish each other’s sentences, the girls are each finding their own path at the Conservatory.

In Alice and Wonderland, Jr., the director worked with the girls to bring out each of their strengths,” said mom Kelli Sandefur.

Working with different directors, choreographers and instructors over the past five years has inspired them to branch out beyond theater classes and into vocal and dance classes and private voice lessons.

This summer, Kayda will focus on voice, participating in the Conservatory’s Voice Intensive, and Thia will focus on dance in the Junior Intensive.

Kayda is looking forward to working with vocal instructor Kavan Gillespie. “He pushes you to go outside of your comfort area. You never feel nervous when it comes time for the performance because he gives you so much to prepare. You feel like you have everything you need to give your best performance.”

Thia took an interest in dance last summer when she got a chance to work with dance instructor Kelly King in Hairspray.

On the Edge,  April 2015. Photo by Soho Images.
“She made sure I did everything very sharp. It was the most intense dancing I’ve ever done,” said Thia.

That sold Thia and her sister on taking hip hop during the school year with Miss Kelly. Though they’ve picked up some dance along the way through theater experiences, neither had ever taken formal dance classes.

“At the beginning of the year, we were nervous. But by the end of year, your confidence is so built up,” said Thia.

Last year, she didn’t even know the Conservatory had a third floor. This year, she’ll spend two weeks in our third floor dance studios as she works on dance skills in the Junior Intensive.

"I want to improve in jazz so I can take Just for Kicks next year."

Ultimately, the two girls are striving for those triple threat skills that will land them professional jobs.

“From auditions to callbacks, the Patel Conservatory has prepared them for what it’s really like in the professional world. When they go to other auditions, they don’t have the unknown fear factor,” said Kelli.

The girls recently had roles as extras in the films Five Doctors and Dolphin Tale 2.

“Improv, dance, singing, drama, you don’t have to go to different places to meet all those needs,” said Thia.

“There are so many different avenues all within one building,” said Kayda. “Patel has really given us everything we need.”

For more information about dance, music and theater camps and classes, call 813.222.1002 or visit

Monday, May 11, 2015

Patel Conservatory's Summer Open House

The Patel Conservatory will have an open house for all new and prospective parents and students interested in our summer camps and classes.

Located at the David A. Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, the Conservatory offers performing arts camps and classes in dance, theater and music. Whether you want to sing, dance, act or play an instrument, we have classes for all ages and skill levels. From Tots and Tunes to Adult Improv, there's something for everyone!

Come learn more at our upcoming open house. It’s your opportunity to tour the Conservatory, meet staff and ask questions. Our summer camp lunch provider, EVOS, will also be available to answer questions.

For your convenience, there are two dates to choose from:

Patel Conservatory Open House
Tues., Jun. 2, 2015
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Orientation at 6:30 p.m.

Sat., June 6, 2015
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Orientation at 10:30 a.m. and noon

Light refreshments will be offered.

Tours are offered before and after each informative orientation session.

To RSVP, click here.

For more information, call 813.222.1002.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spotlight on the Fontanini family

Jay and Marissa Fontanini have been bringing their kids to dance classes at the Patel Conservatory for almost three years.

Jay and Marissa say that, in addition to learning how to pliĆ© and tendu, their kids are learning lifelong skills like confidence and discipline through their positive experiences in the performing arts.

“Our children may not admit it, but without a doubt, what they get most excited about is being challenged to do things they don’t think are possible—only to find themselves reaching new heights,” said Marissa.

The Fontanini’s appreciate how the Patel Conservatory makes a difference not only in their kids’ lives in the classrooms and theaters, but also in the lives of thousands of other students throughout the Tampa Bay community.

That’s why they decided to become Straz Center donors.

“The decision to support the Patel Conservatory was an easy one for us,” said Marissa.

“What really gets us excited is the intentional impact the Patel Conservatory makes in the community. At our first Nutcracker experience, the Metropolitan Ministries partnership was highlighted. It is great to be a part of something that is available to everyone, especially those who might otherwise not have access to high quality fine arts education.”

For the Fontanini’s, performing arts education provides desperately needed instruction in a rapidly changing world.

“The Patel Conservatory enhances the culture of Tampa by giving consistent quality education to aspiring fine arts students. While our kids happen to dance - the convergence of so many performing arts educational outlets in one ‘hub’ makes the Tampa Bay area exceptional,” said Jay.

“The rise of technology in the information age could easily nudge out the performing arts. So it takes vigilance to keep such things alive to maintain a vibrant culture. We owe that to our future generations.”

The Fontanini’s invite other Conservatory parents and community members to show their support of arts education by making a pledge.

“We’d encourage any parent to think about how much their children can benefit, and consider making a contribution to help extend the reach of the Conservatory into the community,” said Jay.

Marissa agreed, “Perhaps some people may think their contribution won’t matter because they can’t make a major contribution, but several people making small donations with an ongoing commitment adds up!”

Please join us in supporting arts education at the Patel Conservatory by becoming a Straz Center Member. To make your gift today, clickhere. 

End of Year Celebration for all Conservatory families

Have you been in a Patel Conservatory class this year? Then you're invited to our biggest cast party of the year!

Patel Conservatory's
End of the Year Celebration
Saturday, May 16
Student showcase at 7 p.m.
Dinner in lobby of Morsani Hall at 8 p.m.

All Patel Conservatory students and families are invited to celebrate another year of classes, performances, competitions, friendships and successes!

The evening kicks off with a showcase of student works in dance, theater and music from those who will be graduating or moving on to other opportunities. We’ll also recognize Peter Stark, dance department chair and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet, for his years of service.

Following the show, enjoy dinner with fellow Conservatory families in the lobby of Morsani Hall, and music and dancing under the tent, courtesy of Ultimate Entertainment.

It'll be a cast party for all our students who have worked so hard throughout the year. So come eat, relax, dance and socialize with friends.

The student showcase will be in the Jaeb Theater at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Dinner is free and will be provided by Patel Conservatory families. All are invited and encouraged to participate!

Dinner is free, but RSVP is appreciated. To RSVP, click here.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Why arts education matters (we couldn't have said it better ourselves)

Re-posted from the Straz Center blog, posted on 4.7.15.

We started to write a blog about why arts education matters, but we found we couldn't have said better than Tony Award winner Judith Light in her blog for the National Endowment for the Arts, “Why Arts Education Matters”.

Light echoes why the Straz Center and Patel Conservatory work so hard to create and maintain community outreach programs, our field trip series, scholarship opportunities, and jobs for extraordinary local teaching artists.

She explains why we should support arts education...

My mother taught me when I was three years old to memorize and recite "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Everybody laughs, but it's absolutely the truth. My mother was my first teacher of the arts, and I performed "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" for my father, so he was my first audience…

When I was growing up, my parents supported my interest in taking acting classes and doing community theater. My father drove me to the rehearsals every day after school, whenever I was doing community theatre productions, and I went to a performing arts camp in New Hope, Penn. I grew up in Trenton, N.J., and my parents even allowed me to go on the train to New York City when I was a young teen to study theater.

My parents' faith in me at that young an age—and the kind of professional training I was getting from my theater teachers—gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of self-confidence, a sense of discipline. I learned what artistic achievement actually was, what hard work the business was. I didn't have this rosy picture of what our business was. I was really learning what it would require for me to become a professional.

I was also learning about life. … I learned about having faith in myself and about developing humility. Most people know that this business is all about not getting everything you want when you want it. Since success comes with such incredible gifts, many people don't realize that, for an actor, most of our lives are actually filled with recognizing that we can't control things. So I've learned, and am still learning as this is an active process, to simply be grateful for what I've been given. Those are very, very precious life skills that were all part of my arts education.

I became an actor, but arts education isn’t just about preparing our young people for a career in the arts. …They learn about discipline and hard work and what's required and what they have to do to bring themselves to the work.

They learn how they can be of service in the world through the arts. They learn how to elevate the people around them. They learn how to work with a team. By studying the arts, these students are exposed to worlds and lives that they might not have any other way of knowing about or any other way to connect with in their lives the way they are right now. Arts education expands their horizons.

These young people are our legacy. We are passing the torch to them. And I think that’s one of the most important reasons why we need to foster the arts. … I think when we get into the arts as young people, it tends to be pretty much about us and our egos. But as we really learn about the arts we discover that it is all about being of service and all about supporting others in seeing things they would not otherwise see—about themselves as well as other people.

Make a choice to join us in inspiring audiences and artists to dream, reach, discover and create!

Become a Straz member today! Visit or call 813.222.1002.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Discounts available for select music camps

The Patel Conservatory is offering discounts for select music camps this summer. Check out these combo deals when you register for two or more music camps!

Young Children’s Music Combo
Sign up for three of our young children’s music camps and save $100!
Get your little ones started on a path towards lifelong music appreciation with a solid foundation in music education.

Jun. 29 - Jul. 10, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. - $250
Pint-sized Percussion (Grades 1-5)
Jun. 29 - Jul. 3, 1 to 4 p.m. - $150
Instrument Petting Zoo (Grades 2-5)*
Jul. 6 - 10, 1 to 4 p.m. - $150

Cost for all three camps: $450

*Offer good for Instrument Petting Zoo from July 6-10 only.

Instrumental Combo
Save $50 when you combine Instrument Petting Zoo and Pint-Sized Percussion the week of July 27 through July 31.

Instrument Petting Zoo (Grades 1-5)*
Jul. 27 - 31, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. - $150
Pint-Sized Percussion (Grades 1-5)
Jul. 27 - 31, 1 to 4 p.m. - $150

Cost for both camps: $250

*Offer good for Instrument Petting Zoo from July 27-31 only.

For more information on Patel Conservatory's music camps and classes, click here. Discounts not available through online registration. To register, call 813.222.1002.