Friday, December 31, 2010

Upcoming music auditions

Our music department is busy, busy preparing for our spring season. Whatever your instrument of choice, there’s something for every young musician at the Patel Conservatory in downtown Tampa. 
In addition to Rock School auditions and our free info session on Suzuki violin, next weekend, we’ll also be having auditions for both the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble.
Auditions for both PCYO and the Jazz Ensemble will be Saturday, January 8th starting at 2 p.m.
The Patel Conservatory Jazz Ensemble is looking for a rhythm section to include saxophones, trumpets and trombones. Learn from working artists in the business and sharpen your improvisation and ensemble skills!

The Jazz Ensemble performs twice a year including at the Jazz at the Straz Side-by-Side concert with the 16-piece Ken Loomer Big Band (April 23, 2011).

For Saturday’s jazz auditions, please prepare a one-minute piece in a jazz style and one prepared scale (an accompanist will not be provided).
For PCYO auditions, please check the audition page on our website for more information.
For questions about any of our upcoming music auditions, please contact Danielle at 222-1273.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What is Suzuki violin?

You've probably heard of Suzuki violin, but perhaps you're not really sure what that means.
The Suzuki method of teaching violin is based on the teaching philosophy of Shinichi Suzuki, a self-taught Japanese violinist and instructor.
Learn more about his philosophy and how it applies to music education in a free orientation: An Introduction to Suzuki – the language of music.
The Suzuki method of teaching violin focuses on training children as young as three to play the instrument.
“The method is based upon the way in which young children learn language. Essentially, a child hears his parents repeating words and eventually imitates them, gradually building his vocabulary.  In a musical context, the child hears music and imitates it, building his repertoire,” said Catherine Michelson, Patel Conservatory Suzuki violin instructor.

The free, informational presentation will be led by Michelson and will include a demonstration from Patel Conservatory Suzuki violin students and a video about the program.

If you've considered violin lessons for your child, this session can answer all your questions.

Join Michelson on Sun., Jan. 9 at 3 p.m. in the TECO Theater at the Patel Conservatory. For more information, call 222-1002.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Don't miss auditions for spring Rock School!

So you got the new guitar or drum set for what?
Learn how to be a pro on stage with Rock School at the Patel Conservatory in downtown Tampa!
Placement auditions are tomorrow, Dec. 28 and Tuesday, Jan. 4 from 6 - 8 p.m. for the spring session of Rock School. No experience necessary. 
You'll be placed into a band according instrument, musical tastes and age. Through weekly band sessions with professional instructors, you'll work toward the goal of performing for an audience at the end-of-session Rock School Blowout. This concert is usually held on the stage of Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center, or outside the Straz Center overlooking the Hillsborough River. It's your chance to rock out like a professional musician.

For the audition, bring your own guitar. Drums and keyboards are provided.

No audition necessary if you've already participated. And, if you already love Rock School, don't forget to register now at And please share this with your friends!

For an audition time, please call 222-1002.

Private music lessons are also available. Click here for more info.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nutcracker sparkles at the Straz Center!

Gymnasts get psyched backstage!

The Next Generation Ballet has put itself on the map as an outstanding ballet company of enormous talent with its debut performance of The Nutcracker.

When Peter Stark joined the Patel Conservatory as chair of our dance department, he had a vision. He’s built our new ballet company (Next Generation Ballet) from the ground up, and put together the Straz Center’s first in-house production of the The Nutcracker. In years past, it was brought to the Straz Center by other companies.
Performers get ready for the opening party scene.
Last night’s show displayed the professional caliber of dancers from Next Generation Ballet and the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet

It was great to see the progression from the rehearsals to the stage, how it all tied together with the costumes and the sets. Exhilarating to see the pay off of all the hours these dancers have put in.
Enormous thanks to the parents and families who have spent an equal amount of time bringing their children to rehearsals and supporting these young dancers, from the tiny Caterpillars and Snowflakes to the exquisite Arabian Leopards, the graceful Flowers and, of course, Clara and her Prince. They'll do it all again today at 2 p.m.!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do something for yourself in the New Year

When the holidays are over and you're feeling the effects of too much pumpkin pie, your New Year's resolutions will look something like this:

  • Get active!
  • Schedule time for myself.

Plan to tackle both of those resolutions at the same time with something that's great for your mind and body! Dance classes are a great way stay active and fit. You're keeping your brain fit as well by learning something new and having fun while taking time just for yourself.

Jumpstart your resolutions with a free adult tap dance class at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa. The free class, taught by Susan Downey, will be Friday, Jan. 7 at noon. No experience is necessary. RSVP required.

Or, sign up any of our adult dance classes, from beginning to advanced ballet to Flamenco and everything in between. The cool thing about the adult dance classes is that the instructors truly make everyone feel comfortable, no matter what age or skill level. So whether you've never taken a dance class, or you just want to get back into it, there's something for everyone.

Carving out time for yourself, either from a hectic work week, or away from family obligations, helps you regroup and re-energize. When you walk into the dance studio, the world melts away and for at least an hour anyway, you focus on the music and your body's movements. You'll find that when class is over, you realize you hadn't even thought about cleaning your house or your to-do list the whole time!

Classes resume on January 3, and now you can even register online for most classes!

To RSVP for the free tap class on Jan. 7, or for more information about adult dance classes at the Patel Conservatory, call 222-1002. See you in the New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Visiting a place where every day people are living their dreams

contributed by Leslie Farrell, publicist for the Patel Conservatory

Ah, to see our world through fresh eyes!
Last night during a tour I was giving of the Straz Center to two teenage journalists, I remembered what it was like to experience a place I’ve been exploring for 16 years as if it were new for me.  The senses of wonder and possibility these girls felt when they when they peeked into the Patel Conservatory classrooms were infectious. 
Sometimes when you work in an incredible place like the Straz Center where magic truly happens every night, when you’re behind the scenes day after day, you can take for granted what an amazing place it is.
But when you show off the place you revere to someone new to the experience, it reopens your eyes. There's an immense pride in working here. Most of my coworkers don’t think of their time at the Straz Center as work but as their lifestyle; most of them are living their dreams.
As I walk her to the door, Adrienne, the photographer, tells me she used to play the viola. Her eyes noticeably light up when I describe the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra (auditions for the spring session are Jan. 8), how they’ve played twice in Carnegie Hall by invitation to standing ovations and how the Dublin Youth Orchestra is coming in February from Ireland to play with our young musicians. She and her father didn’t know that we have an orchestra.
Mariel, the writer, is interested in dance and I share her excitement when we peek in on Susan Downey’s jazz dance class to watch them rehearse for the showcase. Later, when I take her backstage behind Carol Morsani Hall where “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is onstage and we peek into Ferguson Hall where “Wonderland” sets are being set up, she describes her own emotion as “ecstatic.”  I share her feeling and look forward to giving my next tour. 

For more information about classes in dance, theater or music, or to learn how you can get a backstage tour of the Straz Center, call 222-1002.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

In the news...The Nutcracker

How many performers in The Nutcracker? That’s right, 160 performers in next week’s production, with all new choreography from Next Generation Ballet’s artistic director Peter Stark.
Check out this interview from ABC’s Lissette Campos on Positively Tampa Bay with Education Direction Wendy Leigh and Stark, as they chat about The Nutcracker, as well as upcoming shows at the Patel Conservatory.
Want a sneak peak of the talent you can see on stage next week? Check out Hannah Bettes in her ABC interview, and some of the other Next Generation Ballet performers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tappers show off their talent

Patel Conservatory tap students got to strut their stuff at the Metropolitan Ministries holiday drive this past Saturday.
Students from Susan Downey's Tap I, II and III danced to different Christmas classics.
"It was really fun and put everyone in the Christmas spirit," said Laura Cheek, one of the students who performed.
The group will also perform this Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010 at the Adult Student Showcase, featuring performances from the following classes: Adult Tap, Hip-Hop, Modern, Flamenco, Jazz, Musical Theater Cabaret and Jazz Voice Ensemble.
You can also check out the final performances from our acting classes this Thursday!
Come watch your favorite Patel Conservatory student as they put the skills they've learned into action on stage!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Catch this weekend's Jazz Jam

Catch an evening of jazz music this Friday night with vocals and instrumentals from Patel Conservatory jazz students in the fall Jazz Jam.
“It’s a great mix of people,” said Patel Conservatory veteran Jayne Trinette. “Everyone has such a great voice, and James [Crumbly, the instructor] is very creative.”
Trinette, an established singer with an upcoming show at American Stage, has taken several classes at the Patel Conservatory and will perform Friday with the Jazz Voice Ensemble.
Jayne Trinette
“I think the audience is going to be surprised with this show,” she said. “We’ve even got choreography!”
The show will also include pieces from the Jazz Ensemble and the Advanced Jazz Combo classes.
Trinette has been staying busy around town. She performs over the holidays for the Kwanzaa storytelling at Epcot, and at American Stage Dec. 17 - 23 in Holiday Ham.
Friday’s Jazz Jam starts at 7 p.m. in the TECO Theater. Call 222-1002 for more information.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Spotlight on Sarah Aloia

Today’s spotlight is on Sarah Aloia.
When Sarah enrolled in a rock and roll camp at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa last year, she had no idea how it would change her. She played a little bass guitar and loved to sing.
She enjoyed the camp experience so much that she continued her music training at the Patel Conservatory with Rock School. Everything seemed to clique.
“I’ve grown the most from Rock School, musically,” said Sarah, 15, of Clearwater. “I’ve met some insanely talented musicians, and [Lee] has helped me grow a lot.”
Sarah (far right) with Patel Conservatory students and
Roger Waters at his concert last month at the Forum.
Led by instructor Lee Ahlin, Rock School pairs musicians together to form bands and helps members not only grow musically, but also build performance skills.
The first time Sarah joined Rock School, she cliqued with her band members so well that they remained together for two more sessions.
“I’ve gotten a lot more range in my voice,” said Sarah. “If I hadn’t joined Rock School, I probably would have stopped singing and never would have started playing bass. If I didn’t get something right away, Lee would help with me it. It’s helped me become a better bass player.”
Now music has become her whole world. “When there’s no Rock School, it feels like I have no life. You make some awesome friends and you learn a lot.”
This past fall, Sarah joined another Rock School band as well, and now she’s looking to form her own band outside of classes.
“When I started, I didn’t know what I was doing at all,” she said “Now, I can play Led Zepplin and I feel like a beast.”
At last month’s Rock School Blowout, her performance included Stay Together for the Kids by blink-182, and Meant to Live by Switchfoot. Last month, she also got to perform, along with other music students, with legendary rocker Roger Waters from Pink Floyd at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Her goal is to become a professional musician, and Rock School has given her the confidence to pursue her dreams.
“It’s the only thing I want to do,” said Sarah, “I just want to be in a band and get signed with a record company, and make people happy with what I have to offer.”
Everyone gets started somewhere. If you love music like Sarah, and want to test drive what it’s like to be in a band, come check out the Rock Encounter this Saturday, Dec. 11 at 1 p.m. Auditions for Rock School will follow, starting at 3:30 p.m.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Free Ballet Master Classes

Dancers, mark your calendars now for the upcoming free Ballet Master Classes at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa in January.
Don't miss this opportunity to train with Peter Stark, artistic director of Next Generation Ballet, the apprentice ballet company at the Straz Center.
Participation in either class will qualify students for placement in the Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet, the official school of Next Generation Ballet.
Interested students may audition for the Next Generation Ballet Summer Intensive during either class. A $25 audition fee will apply for anyone auditioning for the summer intensive. Students must be at least 11 years old to be eligible to audition; young women must be dancing on pointe.
Master Classes are free, but RSVPs are requested.
Upcoming Master classes:
Thursday, January 6
5-6:30 p.m.

Advanced Ballet Master Class with Peter Stark

Gr. 8-12

For young men and women with several years of serious, advanced ballet training. Young women must have at least three years of experience on pointe.
[Patel Conservatory students currently enrolled in Levels 4B, 5, Trainee and NGB New Artists will attend this class as a part of their regular training program.]
Monday, January 10
6-7:30 p.m.

Intermediate Ballet Master Class with Peter Stark

Gr. 6-12

For students with a minimum of four years of consistent ballet training.
[Patel Conservatory students currently enrolled in Levels 3 and 4A will attend this class as a part of their regular training program.]
Please contact the Patel Conservatory dance department at 813.222.1263 to reserve a spot in either master class, or to receive additional information.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Your chance to jam with the band is next Saturday!

Play the guitar, bass, drums or keyboard? Want to get better? Want to play in a band? This is your chance to do it all for free!
Join us at the free Rock Encounter next Saturday, Dec. 11 where you can jam with other musicians and get tips from professional musician and instructor Lee Ahlin.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to explore your musical talent and learn more about music opportunities at the Patel Conservatory, from private lessons to Rock SchoolIf you’re new to the Patel Conservatory, Rock School places musicians in a band according to skill level and age. Students receive weekly instruction and bands work towards the goal of performing in a concert at the end of each session. The next Rock School session starts Jan. 3.
Next Saturday’s Rock Encounter starts at 1 p.m. and musicians of all ages from grade 5 through adult are invited come rock. Bring your guitar, bass or drumsticks - keyboards, amps and drums will be provided.
So come check it out, and if you love jamming with other musicians, stay for placement auditions for the Spring Session of Rock School (grade 5 - adult) and Rock School, Jr. (grades 2 - 4), starting at 3:30 p.m. [A $15 audition fee is required. Instrument and cords required (drum set, amps and keyboards provided). If you are auditioning as a vocalist, you must audition an instrument as well. Current Rock School students do not need to audition.]
To RSVP for the FREE Rock Encounter, call 222-1002. To make an audition appointment for Rock School, email or call 813.222.1273.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Buy one, get one for White Christmas tomorrow night only!

Want to get in the holiday spirit? Give your kids the gift of Broadway tomorrow night!

Tomorrow night is Broadway Family Night at the Straz Center. Purchase one full-price adult ticket to Irving Berlin's White Christmas for Wed., Dec. 1, and get one free child's ticket. What a perfect way to kick off your family's holiday season.

Come early for family-friendly activities from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m., including mini-workshops from Patel Conservatory theater and dance instructors.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Join us in Hyde Park on Friday

Look for the Patel Conservatory table this Friday at the Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony in Hyde Park.

A favorite activity to kick off the holiday season in Tampa, this family-friendly event includes activities for the kids, entertainment, free cookies and cocoa and the lighting of the 30-foot Christmas tree. There'll also be a visit from Santa.

Don't miss the fun, and stop by our table to say hello and enjoy a free craft activity for the kids. See you there!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Visit us at the show!

So much happening this week at the Straz Center. Tonight, with Dreamgirls in Carol Morsani Hall and the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra concert in Ferguson Hall, make sure you arrive to your events early and give yourself plenty of time to park.
Tuesday’s opening night of Dreamgirls looked like a lot of folks were rushing in from the office to the Straz Center. What better way to end the work day than with singing and dancing? Clutching their tickets and doing their own dance against the clock, a big crowd made it just in time.
If you arrive early, be sure to stop by our table in the lobby for information about classes and the upcoming season at the Straz Center. A lot patrons are looking forward to Billy Elliot next spring. In the meantime, get in the holiday spirit in December with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and the Nutcracker
Don’t forget, you can sign up for classes at the Patel Conservatory any time with our open enrollement.

At Tuesday’s Dreamgirls, there was some interest in the adult classes offered by Patel Conservatory.  One woman commented that she has always wanted to learn to dance and needs a true beginner class. I told her beginners are always welcome at Patel and that we'll save a spot on the dance floor for her.  Another woman was all smiles when I told her you are never too old to learn how to dance. The stage is set, she just has to make her entrance!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Music students rock The Wall

Represent! [Say it with a cool, hip attitude]
That’s right, students from the Patel Conservatory represented students everywhere Tuesday night when they rocked with Roger Waters for a crowd of Pink Floyd fans at the Forum, singing “We don’t need no education...”
They started with a sound check with Waters and a backup singer. The crew was really nice to the kids and stopped by their dressing room a few times to joke around and talk to them about their performance.
For the show, the chaperones got to stand with the media in the pit. The students, from Patel Conservatory music classes, joined Waters on stage to help sing the group’s infamous song The Wall.
They did a great job! After their performance, they each got a personalized autograph picture from Roger Waters and took pictures backstage. While walking to their seats to meet their parents, they got high-fived and audience members yelled “you guys were awesome!”
“It was a jaw dropping experience,” said Ami Corley, Patel Conservatory instructor and administrator. “It was more mind blowing than when I saw the movie for the first time in high school. The kids being exposed to this masterwork, especially the Rock School students, was priceless.”

Nutcracker guest artist Jeffrey Cirio

The Nutcracker is right around the corner, and we are thrilled that Jeffrey Cirio of the Boston Ballet will be among the guest artists to appear in this exquisite production.
Cirio, who trained with Patel Conservatory dance department chair and Nutcracker director Peter Stark, had wonderful things to say of him in a recent interview for The Barre.
“I try to always go back and work with Peter Stark when I can. Taking class with someone who really knows you and wants you to excel is important,” he said. (Click here for full interview.)
Brian Mengini, the Barre
Stark coached Cirio to six international medals in one year, an incredible feat. Cirio’s accomplishments include Silver Medal in the Seoul International Ballet Competition; Grand Prix (best in competition) at the Youth America Grand Prix Finals ; Silver Medal in the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts; Gold Medal at the Helsinki International Ballet Competition; Gold Medal at the World Ballet Competition; and the Princess Grace Award.

“I have never had a student more disciplined and determined,” said Stark. “To be a soloist at age 18 with a major ballet company is a testament to Jeffrey’s drive to perfection and desire to inspire his audiences.”
In the interview, Cirio also mentions the Straz Center's new apprentice ballet company Next Generation Ballet and his guest appearance.

Cirio will appear in the The Nutcracker as the Snow King. Other guest artists include New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford and Jonathan Stafford.
“Cirio’s participation in The Imperial Nutcracker at the Straz Center will anchor the first act and, I have no doubt, ignite the stage with fireworks and excite the audiences,” said Stark.
The Nutcracker will be Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, 2010 in Carol Morsani Hall and promises to be one of the highlights of your holiday season!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Free Rock School concert this Saturday

Are you ready to rock?
Paul and Timothy Santora are pumped for this Saturday’s Rock School Blowout. These brothers from Pinellas Point will get the chance to rock the stage together.
“They’ve taken music lessons for a while, but they weren’t pushing them to the next level,” said their mom, Yvette Sequino. “I can’t believe how they’ve just exploded in the past six months.”
They’ve been making the trek from Pinellas Point every week to the Patel Conservatory to not only improve their own skills, but also learn the nuances of playing in a group. Paul, 13, is the lead singer and plays guitar, and Timothy, 9, plays drums. Their band also includes Nathan Miller, 14, on guitar.
At this weekend’s blowout, they’ll perform The Beatles’ Day Tripper and Fire by Jimmy Hendrix.
“It’s cool to learn a bunch of new songs,” says Timothy. “Paul [Stoddart] is awesome. He pushes you, but he’s funny.”
Led by Rock School instructors Lee Ahlin and Paul Stoddart, nine bands from the Patel Conservatory Rock School program will perform modern and classic rock tunes from artists such as Cream, Green Day and the Rolling Stones.
The concert is this Sat., Nov. 20 at 1 p.m. and will be outside on the Riverwalk at the Straz Center. Admission is free and open to the public. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
So bring your blankets and enjoy a great afternoon overlooking the Hillsborough River with live music that will, in the words of Jack Black, “blow your mind!”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Youth chorus takes on Glee!

Got Glee fever? A group of local middle schoolers have come together for their own Glee experience.
Students in the Patel Conservatory Youth Chorus will get the chance to strut their stuff Glee-style this weekend.
“It’s really fun,” said Ellie Bass, a seventh grade student in the class, “We’ve worked really hard to bring it together, and now we get to perform it.”
Ellie joined the Patel Conservatory this summer, trying a couple of different camps, including rock and roll camp. She enjoyed it so much, she signed up for the Youth Chorus, a new class in the Patel Conservatory music program.
“We’ve learned different vocal warm-ups, songs and dances,” said Ellie.
“The goal of the class is to give students performing arts experience by being a student outreach group,” said instructor Liz Stewart.
The group will perform various songs, including the girls’ sing-off from an episode of the popular television show Glee, this Saturday at Novemberfest at Nativity Church.
Their line-up also includes What a Wonderful World and Dust in the Wind.
“I’m trying to expose them to many styles of singing and performance styles,” said Stewart. “They’re working on their craft and learning how to prepare a show.”
By performing at local events like Novemberfest throughout the year, students gain valuable performance experience and serve the community at the same time.
The group may perform at the Florida State Fair and the Strawberry Festival.

“Performing at a carnival or state fair plants the seed for their talent,” said Stewart. “They learn to embrace being in front of an audience so they have no fear.”
She points out that that many high school choral programs can be quite competitive. Participating in a class like show chorus can help middle schoolers gain experience and be more prepared for a high school program.
Stewart has taught performing arts in the Tampa area for several years, and has been the choral director at Riverview High School for the past six years. Many of her former students are now professional performers.
“It’s easy to learn from her [Stewart] because she’s really experienced and she makes it fun,” said Ellie.
You can check out the Patel Conservatory Youth Chorus this Saturday at noon at Nativity Church in Brandon.
Or check out the class for yourself, every Monday at 6 p.m., and you can be part of the fun!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Learn to play the blues!

A group of middle school band players enjoyed workshops with local jazz musicians today.
The group started the day with the field trip series performance of Blues, Bop and Hip Hop. The audience enjoyed listening to popular jazz pieces and learned about the history of jazz music. 
Inverness Middle School students get tips at a workshop.
Following the performance, the musicians led students from the Inverness Middle School band through workshops where they learned how to improve their own playing skills.

“There are three things unique to blues music,” explained Ron Delp, a pianist and leader of the Ron Delp Trio, a jazz band based in St. Petersburg. “While most music is written in 8 bars, blues is 12 bars long.”
He continued to explain what a blues scale is, and dominant chords. Most students had never played the blues before.
Students broke into three groups, brass, rhythm and winds, and learned a new blues piece, and then came together and performed it as a group.
Students get tips from pianist Ron Delp
They also performed pieces they’re currently working on at school and received invaluable feedback from the professional musicians, including Delp. Other musicians were Patel Conservatory Jazz Instructor Tom Ziegelhofer, Jim Burge of the Ken Loomer Big Band and the Jazz Cellar Underground Orchestra, and Mike Ruven and Jeff Henson of the Ron Delp Trio.
It was amazing to see the students’ progression and improvement in the short amount of time they spent with the musicians. Even small tips like learning how to hold the instrument correctly made a big difference.
“I had a great time,” said Ziegelhofer. “I didn’t know what to expect with the different age groups we had, but they picked it up pretty well.”
If you know of a group interested in spending a Day at the Center to learn more about the Performing Arts, or, to learn more about music classes including private lessons or our Jazz Ensemble, call 222-1002 or visit