Monday, February 28, 2011

Get 10% off summer camps and classes!

What will your kids be doing all summer?
On Saturday, March 12, make your way over to the annual Summer Splash at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
Spend a relaxing day on the Riverwalk, and at the same time, find great places for your children to enjoy summer fun.
Hosted by the Patel Conservatory and Tampa Bay Parenting magazine, Summer Splash will feature free activities for the kids including a bounce house, balloon animals and live entertainment. Parents can get information and register on site for summer camps and classes at places such as Lowry Park, the Glazer Children's Museum, the Florida Aquarium, and of course, the Patel Conservatory!

Set your summer schedule now before the best camps fill up with one easy, fun afternoon!
The Patel Conservatory will also be open for tours. Summer is the perfect time to try something new. Your kids can try an instrument in our Instrumental Petting Zoo, explore dance, music and theater in Intro to Performing Arts or strengthen their stage performance in summer PCYT. These are just a few of our camps that range from preschool to high school, from beginning levels to advanced summer intensives such as our vocal intensive and new Pit Orchestra experience.
Summer Splash will be the last day to receive our early registration 10% discount at the Patel Conservatory.
For more information, click here, or view the full summer schedule here.
Summer Splash takes place March 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside on the Riverwalk at the Straz Center.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dance, music and theater come together in West Side Story

The world of musical theater brings together actors, singers, dancers and musicians.

At the Patel Conservatory, we’re striving to do the same by building an alliance among our classes. For example, this summer, for the first time, our pit orchestra camp will accompany our summer theater production.

In that same vein, as part of their course work, some of our dance, music and theater classes will be coming to together Monday to watch and discuss the 1961 movie West Side Story.
There’s extensive opportunities for our music, theater and dance students to work together and learn from one another. Monday’s movie night is our first venture in joining our departments for such an educational experience.
“This is a giant step in trying to create a collaborative community culture,” said Wendy Leigh, director of education at the Straz Center. “This will help them see the true value of each part that they play to make theater happen.”
West Side Story strongly encompasses all three disciplines (dance, music, theater), making it the perfect example of how theater is a collaborative process.

The movie night is a precursor to the classes’ field trips to see the upcoming Broadway revival of West Side Story coming to the Straz Center. Directors of each of our departments will give an overview of what is notable and what students should look for when watching the movie and live versions.
Peter Stark (director, dance department) will share his experiences working with Jerome Robbins, choreographer for the film and original Broadway production, and five time Tony winner.
“He knew exactly what he wanted and it showed in the precision of his work,” said Stark of working with Robbins. “He was completely aware at every moment of what the audience would do, and how to manipulate an audience, how and when they’d breathe, laugh, clap.”
Gigi Jennewein (director, theater department) will talk about the theme of the story and its ties to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Bill Wiedrich (PCYO director) will speak about the musical score and why this was a ground breaking piece of work.

If you are a dance, music or theater student, at the Patel Conservatory or otherwise, download our study guide for West Side Story and all of our Broadway and field trip shows at the Patel Conservatory website.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Join us for a special orchestra concert tomorrow night!

The Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra is proud to host visiting musicians from Dublin, Ireland tomorrow night.
Please join us for a special concert from the Dublin Youth Orchestra alongside our PCYO Youth Symphony.
“I’m looking forward to meeting people from Dublin,” said Queenie Edwards, 16, a violinist with the PCYO Youth Symphony. “It will be nice to converse with other musicians who feel the same way about music, especially from another country.”
Edwards joined PCYO’s Junior Philharmonic when she was ten years old.
“Dr. Wiedrich is a phenomenal conductor,” she said. “This was my first orchestra, so I’ve learned all the basics about playing in an orchestra.”
Now she plays at a pre-professional level and is hoping to continue studying music in college. In 2007, she performed with PCYO at Carnegie Hall.  
“It was a tremendous experience. Not many musicians ever get to go to Carnegie Hall,” she said. “Just walking on stage was pretty humbling.”
Tomorrow night, PCYO will perform the finale of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5 with Dublin Youth Orchestra’s conductor.
“We’ve done side-by-side concerts with the Florida Orchestra, but never with an international group,” said Edwards. “We just have a few hours with them to rehearse. It’ll be a challenge to work with another conductor, but I’m looking forward to it.”

The concert will be tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center. For tickets, call 229-STAR or visit

Following the concert, there will be a reception for the musicians and their families in the TECO Theater.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Dance author to visit Patel Conservatory

Attention dance students, and anyone who loves dance, mark your calendars for March 15.

Jacques d’Amboise, longtime dancer with the New York City Ballet, will read from his new book I Was a Dancer.
d’Amboise joined the New York City Ballet at age fifteen, became principal dancer at seventeen, and remained so for the next thirty-five years. He’s appeared in the films Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Carousel, The Best Things in Life Are Free, Watching Ballet and Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
He is the founder of the National Dance Institute. He's authored Teaching the Magic of Dance, and he has received numerous awards.
Co-sponsored by the Patel Conservatory and Inkwood Books, the event will take place at 6 p.m. in the TECO Theater. The reading will be followed by a book signing. Books may be reserved at Inkwood Books, and will also be available for purchase at the event.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thanks for stopping by!

Wow, we had over 130 people visit us last week to try our classes, many of whom had never been to the Patel Conservatory! Many didn’t even know the Patel Conservatory is here at the Straz Center in downtown Tampa.
It was wonderful to welcome so many new artists, who got a taste of our classes in dance, music and theater. For those who still may not know, we offer classes for everyone from the novice to the professional. We have experienced working artists on staff, so whether you’re in the business and want to hone your skills, or if you just want to try something new, there’s something for you.
We also had several students try and observe our music classes.

We want to thank our current students for encouraging your friends to come try a class. One student who came in to try an acting class said he was there because a friend signed him up. He was hesitant, but curious, and afterwards expressed what a great time he had!
We thank everyone for stopping by, and we hope you all had a great time and will come again!

Fuller cast as Billy Elliot, and more Patel Conservatory in the news

Theater instructor Audrey Siegler was recently featured on for her outreach class at Morgan Woods Elementary.
It's official!....Ethan Fuller, who has trained extensively here at the Patel Conservatory with our dance department chair Peter Stark, has been cast as the lead of Billy in the Broadway tour of Billy Elliot the Musical. He'll be joining the tour soon. See Tampa Tribune story here. See video of Ethan at the Patel Conservatory here.
And the Tampa Tribune article about our Ballet for Boys class has sparked some interesting comments.
from the article... 
"If you want to do something easy, try football. This is not for wimps." - Peter Stark...
 Ballet offers the cardiovascular benefits of other sports but also emphasizes flexibility, form and balance."
Tampa Tribune photo.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Free master class with Tango Fire Dance Company

Don’t miss your chance to dance with the stars!
Members of the Tango Fire Dance Company of Buenos Aires will present a free master class for adults next week at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa. Basic and advanced steps in tango dancing will be taught and demonstrated.
The dance company performs in Tango Fire at the Straz Center on Feb. 19, 2011 at 7:30 p.m.
The free class will be Sat., Feb. 19 at 11 a.m. in the TECO Theater. Space is limited. Pre-registration is required.
RSVP today to reserve your spot! Call 813-222-1002.

Sponsors help make our programs possible

Contributed by Leslie Farrell, publicist for the Patel Conservatory

When you work at a nonprofit organization, you hear a lot about “corporate giving.” Those of us who are working for the public good usually have to look to corporations for financial support
Wendy Leigh, with David Christian and Brett Couch
from Regions Bank
Last week, we welcomed corporate higher-ups from Regions Bank, David Christian and Brett Couch, to the Patel Conservatory in Tampa for a photo shoot with Wendy Leigh, the Straz Center’s vice-president of education.
Regions Bank generously donated funds toward the Straz Center/Patel Conservatory’s outreach programs. They are featuring the Straz Center in its annual Social Responsibility Report. This report is actually a high gloss beautiful magazine-type publication, of which 30,000 will be printed and distributed in bank lobbies and other places across the country. 
Now who would have thought these corporate leaders would have so much fun during a photo shoot? The photographer got them going on some humorous topic and their sides were sore from laughing. Something about an Old Spice You Tube video that I somehow missed.
Later in the day, the shoot included students from Sulphur Springs Elementary and their Patel Conservatory theater instructor, Audrey Siegler. The bank brought in hair stylists for the event. So Siegler’s busy day went from teaching a group of middle school drama students on a field trip, to getting treated to a professional hairdo for photo opp at Sulphur Springs Elementary, where she teaches an outreach drama class.
The Patel Conservatory serves up to 15,000 people through outreaches like Siegler’s classes throughout the Tampa area in dance, music and theater. We have 1,100 students enrolled in classes at the Conservatory. Thanks to Regions and other supporters, 10 to 15 percent of our students receive financial aid, scholarships and free classes.
In addition, we’re able to offer Access Arts Scholarships (now accepting applications through March 4, 2011) for summer camps and classes.
We're privileged to be featured in Regions Bank’s Social Responsibility Report, and we’re grateful to all of our financial contributors for supporting arts education.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Summer intensive audition tour continues

Peter Stark continues his nationwide audition tour for the Next Generation Ballet's summer intensive at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa...

Stark leads an audition in San Francisco on Sunday.
"18 cities down and 5 to go! So much talent in America. I hope some decide to come to Tampa to train!" he said on Saturday from Salt Lake City, where he "enjoyed the beautiful mountain views."

He headed to San Francisco on Sunday, and this weekend he'll visit Kansas City, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

Stark is the chair of the dance department at the Patel Conservatory, and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet at the Straz Center. The summer intensive includes five to six hours of serious ballet training Monday through Friday from June 27 through July 30, 2011.

Please visit our website for more information.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kids learn an appreciation for music, theater and the arts

Contributed by Leslie Farrell, Publicist for the Patel Conservatory
Tracy LeBarbera’s music room at Morgan Woods Elementary School invites exploration. Exotic-looking drums line the walls. Instruments are visible throughout the colorfully decorated room, which silently speaks of discovery and fun.
Fourth graders at Morgan Woods recently got that chance to explore and discover with a visit from Patel Conservatory theater instructor Audrey Siegler. Audrey's visit was to teach these 30 fourth graders about theater, true; but in the process, they learned about conflicts and morals. They discussed the theme of the book, “Shrek,” on which the movie and now Broadway show are based. 
As Audrey's animated voice brought the story to life, the children listened attentively. They didn’t pay much attention to me, my journalist companion or even the TV camera. 
Audrey returns to this classroom each week as part of the Broadway Education Project. Over the course of several months, the students will learn to make story boards, act and perform a song. Those are the activities, but what they’ll ultimately learn – the joy of the performing arts, camaraderie of the stage and further appreciation for music – will stay with them.
What will stay with me is a yearning for arts education to continue in schools, and a gratitude to my employer, the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center, for making this particular experience possible for these children. And I’m thankful to Tracy and the school system for having the open-mindedness to welcome these kinds of programs.
“We are building a passion for creative learning and we’re learning the process,” says Audrey, who created this curriculum. “I hope each child finds something new or builds on a passion that’s already there.”
Most of these students have never seen a live performance, let alone a Broadway show. But they’ll get that chance when the class culminates in a field trip to see “Shrek - the Musical” in May at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
Through the Patel Conservatory, Audrey teaches the same curriculum to two other schools in the Tampa area, Lockhart and Mueller.

Life at the Straz Center

On Tuesday, drama students from Wilson Middle School got a behind-the-scenes glimpse at life at the Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory in downtown Tampa. Through sample classes and a tour of the largest performing arts center in the southeast, the students got a real taste of what goes on here, from Broadway shows to classes that teach budding young artists, and everything in between.
They began their Day at the Center with a Field Trip Series show in Ferguson Hall, where they enjoyed a performance with a message about cyber bullying. Afterwards, they met the cast and then enjoyed a brown bag lunch in Maestro’s cafe.
The students proceeded to TECO Theater where they learned how to be “in the moment” when on stage. Theater instructors Gigi Jennewein and Audrey Siegler led the kids through exercises that got them out of their shells and thinking on their feet.
The exercises gave the young actors practice in focusing only on what’s happening on stage.
“When you’re on that stage, you’re not trying to please the audience, or your parents or your teachers, your only focus should be your character’s goal,” said Jennewein.

Following their theater workshops, the group received a tour of the Straz Center, where they were lucky to catch the load in for Billy Elliot in Carol Morsani Hall. The crew of Billy Elliot were building a stage on top of a stage. They’d only begun their construction that of the students remarked, “they’re going to be done and ready for a show tomorrow night?”
Seeing the sheer mass of lights, equipment and workers, gave the students an appreciation for technical theater and what happens behind the scenes. They got a real look at all the work that the audience doesn’t see or notice when they’re caught up in the magic of a live performance.
From the enormous 2,600 seat Morsani Hall to the intimate 130-seat Shimberg Playhouse, where the set for the Odd Couple was being built, the kids got a feel for the various types of shows that go on simultaneously at the Straz Center.
It’s all in a day at the Straz Center.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Be a more confident actor

When is the last time someone thanked you for making a mistake?
One of the best things about Eugenie Bondurant’s on-camera acting class is her brilliant way of turning every mistake into a positive learning opportunity. Right when you think, boy, I just blew it, she’ll excitedly say, “I’m so glad you just did that! Now we can talk about another way to do it.”
In the on-camera acting classes at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, students learn how to be real and connected on-camera and deliver a more interesting and believable performance.
“We explore the dynamic of ‘less is more’ and being truthful, creating good acting habits for camera that could be also used for stage work,” said Bondurant.
Each class begins with Meisner exercises that help actors learn how to be present and truthful with the work and their partners.
What is the Meisner Technique?
“The Stanford Meisner Technique is one of the best methods of acting to force the actor to ‘get out of his head’ and focus on being in the moment; and being present with his partner in real time,” said Bondurant.
The technique promotes deep use of the imagination as opposed to playing the action. The actor learns to use what is real and present in his life, along with his imagination, to create an alternate reality to fit into the scene.
Each student is encouraged to to study their on-camera performance at home to learn what works and what doesn’t work.
“We’re often our own worst critic, so seeing what is believable and working through it can change the dynamic of the process for the student,” said Bondurant. I’m very excited about this class. It is truly one of my favorite classes to teach since we really get to dive into the nuts and bolts of being real on camera.”

The adult on-camera acting workshop starts this Thursday, Feb. 3 and runs through Feb. 24, 2011. The on-camera acting workshop for grades six through 12, taught by Michele Young, starts this Sat., Feb. 5 and runs through Feb. 26, 2011.

Feel free to make mistakes, take chances, be yourself and learn the tools of the trade. Come see how Bondurant’s infectious enthusiasm can help you become a more confident performer.