Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Congratulations to this year's Broadway Star of the Future winners!

Congratulations to Kylie Heyman and Kamari Saxon who won the Straz Center’s 2015 Broadway Star of the Future Award!

The two were recently recognized with the award at the Florida State Thespian Festival.

Now in its fifth year, the Straz Center gives the Broadway Star of the Future Award to one male actor and one female actor in recognition of their outstanding performance in a musical theater production.

Kylie Heyman
Kylie, 17, of St. Petersburg, was recognized for her performance as Reno in Anything Goes. A student at Shorecrest Preparatory School, she has appeared as Mary Poppins in Mary PoppinsVelma Kelly in Chicago, Liesel Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, among others. She has previously studied voice with Rachael Marino at the Patel Conservatory and taken part in the Broadway Theatre Project.

Kamari Saxon
Kamari, of Jacksonville, was recognized for his performance as Flick in Violet. A student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, he has appeared in Extravaganza, Growing Up, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Star Fish Circus as an aerialist, and others.

As recipients of the Broadway Star of the Future Award, Kylie and Kamari will travel to New York City this summer to represent the state of Florida and the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

Congratulations to these rising Broadway stars!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spotlight on: Alex Carr, Rock School student

Alex Carr had taken drum lessons for years before he finally got the opportunity to perform in a band.

“Before Rock School, I hadn’t been able to find anyone interested in starting a band,” said Alex.

He signed up for his first Rock School band at the Patel Conservatory after his parents saw an article in the newspaper about the program. That was about five years ago. Now a sophomore at Berkeley Preparatory School, Alex continues to enjoy the experience year after year.

“I really just like the experience of playing with a band, rehearsing and putting on a show at the end,” said Alex. “It’s great to be able to practice with a group of people that are around your skill level and like basically the same kind of music you do.”

He’s played with an array of musicians over the past few years, and even keeps in touch with some of his first bandmates.

“It’s a good way to make friends who are interested in music… you branch out musically, and you keep a lot of the connections,” he said.

In fact, his most recent Rock School band has begun to jam together outside of Conservatory rehearsals, including at a youth jam night at the Living Room in Dunedin.

Alex is looking forward to playing at the upcoming Rock School Blowout concert this Sunday at Skipper’s Smokehouse. His band will play Strange Times by the The Black Keys, and Ignorance by Paramore. The concert will also include performances from the Conservatory's jazz ensembles.

“Skipper's is a really cool venue. They have a nice stage and it’s a cool atmosphere they have going on.”

Alex also keeps busy with crew and varsity volleyball at school. (His volleyball team recently won the state championship).

Rock School remains his time to jam, chill and just have fun.

“It’s great to play in a band. I don’t have to be world famous, but to play every once in a while [in front of an audience] is a lot of fun.”

Don’t miss the Patel Conservatory's free Rock School Blowout concert this Sun., Apr. 12 at 3 p.m. at Skipper’s Smokehouse!

Auditions for the Conservatory’s summer Rock School and Rock Star Retreat will be May 19 and 23. For more info, or to sign up, contact Allison at 813.222.1002 or

Friday, April 3, 2015

Guest blog: Tap dance is alive and well

Ashlyn Bolton with Savion Glover and
younger sister Emma (left).
Guest blog by Ashlyn Bolton, Patel Conservatory dance student

I was recently fortunate to have the opportunity to witness one of today's tap dance masters, Savion Glover, in performance.

Mr. Glover came to the Straz Center with the touring tap dance production, StePz, which also features fellow tap dancers Marshall Davis, Jr., Robyn Watson, Lisa La Touche, and Sara Savelli.

While in Tampa for the day, the cast of STePz spent time at one of the Patel Conservatory's partners in education, Blake High School, where they hosted an educational talk-back session. Glover spoke about how he first entered the world of dance.

By the age of 7, Glover started dancing at Broadway Dance Center, which was known as Hines-Hatchet Dance Academy at the time. Through his younger years, he was surrounded by tap dance greats such as;  Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines, Chuck Green, Lon Chaney, and Lady Dianne Walker to name a few. They were his mentors the, “Balanchine's of the tap world.”

During the talk, Glover was very thoughtful with every word he spoke. Each word was thought out with care and intelligence as he made it clear that the reason he dances is to honor the tap greats throughout history.

Glover gives students a preview demonstration at Blake High School, a Patel
Conservatory community partner.
The cast tap danced in an improv circle, showing musicality, creativity, and a pure love for what they do. Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to work with one of the cast members, Lisa LaTouche,  at different tap workshops. Seeing one of my mentors/teachers perform that night was very inspiring.

As showtime approached, the audience's excitement grew. The show was magical. Fluidity, style, and spunk graced the stage. There were a few pieces done with miniature staircases, to pay homage to the famous tap staircase dances done throughout history. I automatically think of Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, singing and dancing together up and down a staircase in the movie The Little Colonel. This famous dance, and duo, is what made me want to start dancing when I was younger. I'm sure that somewhere in the audience there were young kids, in awe, much like I was at their age.

Tap dancers in the audience caught onto one of the “shave-and-a-haircut” rhythm sequences, which Glover executed by gliding down the stairs backwards while scraping the edge of each step with his taps. This phenomenal display of brilliance elicited much excitement from the audience.

Each piece had a certain unique feeling, in music, style, and execution. One of my favorite moments of the night was Glover's solo, performed to the song, "Mr. Bojangles." It gave me chills, as I'm sure it did others. He made it look so effortless, even when his feet moved so fast you couldn't see them moving! No joke!

After the show, I attended a Q&A with the cast. One of the questions asked was, "what is one thing you want the entire world to know about tap dance?" The entire cast agreed that the world needs to “know the history of the dancers [for what they're worth], in their respected level.” As Sarah Savelli put it, "we can't move on into the future without knowing our past." It's sad to say that I've witnessed the majority of my generation having no clue who people like Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. are. After watching Savion Glover perform in the show and at the school, I truly believe our tap dance legends who have passed on live today through him.

A question asked during the course of the night "what's your favorite tap step?"

Glover  replied, “it's all about the sound, not the step.”

Personally, from a tap dancer's point of view, I feel that that is one of the hardest questions to answer. You get to a point where you've done all the so called "steps" and turn to more of the music you're making.

“Tap dance is music - not just dance,” Glover said. It's an art form, one which shouldn't be overlooked.

Perhaps the most poignant quote from the night, which has stuck with me, was Glover's advice to aspiring dancers to “be an individual, look to the greats for inspiration, and never stop self discovering.”

After hearing that, I definitely felt inspired to get back in the studio to learn more about myself, through the music coming from my feet, because, as Glover put it, “[you], your heartbeat, makes the music.”

For more info on tap classes at the Patel Conservatory, call 813.222.1002 or visit

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Free workshop with legendary jazz artist

Are you a musician interested in gaining skills or learning more about jazz?

You’re invited to participate in a free jazz workshop with seasoned professionals in the business!

Jazz Workshop
Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center
Thurs., Apr. 23, 2015
5 p.m.

The Patel Conservatory is hosting a jazz workshop for musicians who’d like to improve their skills and learn more about the form. Students will have the opportunity to study with jazz legend John Lamb, one of the most notable jazz musicians in the area. This virtuoso bassist played with the famed Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Participants will work with Lamb and other professionals, including the Conservatory's resident jazz expert Matt Weihmuller, in specialized master classes geared towards improvisation.

The workshop serves as an introduction to the Patel Conservatory’s jazz program and summer opportunities. Participants may be considered for the Conservatory’s Jazz Intensive, a week-long experience that includes small combo and big band playing as well as master classes and in-depth training.

The workshop is free and open to students in grades seven through college. Students should bring whatever instrument they play.

For more information, or to RSVP, contact

From Fiddler to Broadway Bound, adult student Carol Byrd enjoys new challenges

Whether taking dance or theater classes, there’s a feeling that Carol Byrd gets when she comes to the Patel Conservatory.

“When you walk in to the Conservatory, you’re just happy,” said Carol. “Everyone is always so encouraging.”

Prior to starting classes at the Conservatory, she’d done some theater in college, but hadn’t performed in many years. She’d always wanted to try tap.

“As an adult, you become a mom and have a family, and you get away from doing the things you love to do, but it’s something I’ve always wanted to pursue.”

She began taking tap classes in 2007 and has since taken ballet and jazz and enjoyed a host of performance experiences. She’s been in numerous open dance showcases, the annual Spotlight Awards for four years, and had an ensemble role in the Conservatory’s theater production of Kiss Me, Kate. She performed in the recent open dance intensive Winter Fantasy, and is currently a cast member in Fiddler on the Roof, on stage in April.

With each performance opportunity comes a new challenge. While the rehearsal process for Fiddler on the Roof has been demanding, for Carol, it’s also extremely rewarding.

“It’s a lot of work, there’s a lot we have to learn in a short amount of time. It takes you out of your comfort zone, which is scary, but exhilarating,” she said.

In addition to pushing herself artistically, with every experience she enjoys meeting new people.

“Of course, with each show, the cast bonds and you get close to people.”

In Winter Fantasy, she and other participants spent one week learning and polishing choreography and musical theater pieces to perform in a show at the end of the week.

“It was one of the best weeks of my life. It was intense…you dance every night for two to three hours. You have to pick up the choreography quickly, but, you find you can actually do it. It’s amazing how the show comes together in just a week,” said Carol.

While performing on Straz Center stages may have become second nature to her, no matter how many times she performs, it’s always a thrill.

“It’s a great feeling every time the audience claps at the end. It’s just amazing,” she said. “I have mad love for the place.”

In fact, she’s already planning her next show after Fiddler on the Roof. She intends on signing up for the open dance intensive in May, Broadway Bound.

We look forward to seeing Carol in Fiddler on the Roof and many more shows to come!

Fiddler on the Roof runs April 16 through April 26, 2015. For tickets, click here.

The open dance intensive, Broadway Bound, will be May 4 through May 9, with the performance on May 9, 2015. For more information, click here or call 813.222.1002.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Free audition prep workshops in April

Do your kids want to perform in our Patel Conservatory summer theater shows like Aladdin Jr. and Shrek the Musical?

The Conservatory will hold auditions for these shows in May and all experience levels are welcome.

Whether you're a beginning or experienced actor, auditions can be intimidating. But if you’re prepared, it’s a lot easier and can be a lot of fun. Every audition offers a chance to perform, learn, gain experience and connect with other actors.

For young actors who'd like to sharpen their audition skills, we're offering two free audition prep workshops to help students in grades two through college learn how to prepare for an audition and what to expect.

In the Conservatory’s audition workshops, actors will learn how to prepare, build and execute a professional theatrical audition from the ground up. Participants will work through the audition process, requirements and expectations, and discover how to exit the audition with their head held high.

Topics will include selecting material, memorization, creating resumes, slating, headshots and much more. Students will participate in lecture as well as coaching to gain knowledge and understanding of how to be successful and confident in auditions.

The workshops include a separate seminar for parents to learn how to support and aid their student through the process.

Grades 2 to 6
Sat., April 25, 2015
12 to 2 p.m.
Parent workshop from 1 to 2 p.m.
 This workshop is geared towards students interested in auditioning for Aladdin Jr.
Grade 7 to College
Wed., April 22, 2015
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Parent workshop from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
 This workshop is geared towards students interested in auditioning for Shrek, Romeo & Juliet and Showstoppers.

The workshops are free, but RSVP is required. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Audrey at

On the Edge kicks it up a notch

Dance fans, prepare to be wowed at the Patel Conservatory’s production of On the Edge. This year, the popular contemporary dance performance kicks it up a notch with live music accompaniment by percussionist Jim Rungo. 

From a spectacular kick line to breath-taking contemporary pieces, On the Edge features our Conservatory dancers as they demonstrate their emotional and technical versatility through a variety of solo and ensemble pieces in contemporary, jazz, tap and hip hop.

“I wanted to add to the intensity level of the show, so I turned to longtime friend and amazing drummer Jim Rungo,” said Kelly King, Patel Conservatory’s Lead Contemporary Teacher and the show’s director.

Originally from France, Rungo has more than 35 years of professional experience in various music styles from jazz to classical to R&B. He has performed locally and toured nationally and internationally, and is currently accompanying for First Date, now playing in the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center.

Rungo and King have previously collaborated for many years, including for the Broadway Theatre Project at the University of South Florida, for which King was resident choregrapher.

“Jim’s talents and musical direction have added an exciting element to the show. And the dancers have gained the benefit of working with a live musician,” said King.

“It’s a great experience for the dancers, who have to pay close attention to music cues and timing.”

The show will also feature solos from Gabrielle Vogel, Christopher Kunzelmann and Levi Durie, who will show off their pieces that they’ll perform at the Youth America Grand Prix finals in New York City, also in April.

Don’t miss your chance to see stunning performances from the award winning dancers of the Patel Conservatory Show Team and Next Generation Ballet, as well as Patel Conservatory’s Popular Dance and Youth Ballet programs.

On the Edge will be April 18, 2015 at 7 p.m. in Ferguson Hall. For tickets or more information, click here.