Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Conductor Stephen P. Brown shares his passion for classical music

In a digital world, where we rely so heavily on our gadgets, Stephen P. Brown’s goal is to share the experience of live music.
As a conductor and composer, Brown wants to share his passion with both performers and audience members alike.
“Classical music has lasted more than 400 years for a reason,” said Brown, “The whole process of making live music is very intimate...Experiencing it live is something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in our digital world.”
Brown joined the Patel Conservatory in 2011 as the Principal Conductor of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra program.
Originally from Rochester, England, Brown has toured worldwide to over 15 countries in East and West Europe, Africa and North America. He conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Griffin Orchestra, and has conducted several premieres including Antonin Tucapsky’s Triptychon, Martin Gaughan’s Columba Aspexit, and Jon Edwards’ Dawn Mantras as part of the UK’s Millennium Festival.
After living in New Jersey for ten years, Brown moved to Tampa with his wife Melissa and two kittens Kip and Serena in early 2011.
Teaching has always been an important part of his professional life.
“I wouldn’t be where I am if I didn’t have good teachers,” said Brown, who’s been teaching since he was 17 years old. “I want to give back to the next generation what was passed down to me from the previous generation.”
One of the goals of PCYO this year is to focus on music by living composers, said Brown. In May, PCYO will perform a work currently being composed exclusively for the Patel Conservatory Chamber Orchestra by Martin Gaughan.
“We live in a developing world. The youth of today should contribute to that development by playing music written in their time,” said Brown. “There are few youth orchestras that have that kind of focus.”
The May concert will also include a concerto by professional pianist Joshua Sawicki, winner of Brown's national Concerto Competition held in late 2011. Playing with a professional allows the students an opportunity to grow both musically and intellectually.
“At their level, being able to follow and listen is vital to their growth,” said Brown. “Even if you end up in the corporate world, you need to listen to co-workers and follow what your boss wants...What students learn through orchestral experience can be applied to just about anything else in life.”
PCYO students also will have the opportunity to travel to Jacksonville to work with members of the Jacksonville Symphony and participate in the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra Festival in June.

As part of the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra program offers unique experiences that foster the growth of young musicians. We're thrilled to have Brown's expertise at the helm.

For more information about our youth orchestra, or music lessons in Tampa, click here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Patel Conservatory dancers compete in YAGP regionals in January

On the heels of The Nutcracker, some of our Next Generation Ballet (NGB) dancers are arduously training for their next performance, one which could be the start of a ballet career.
Nearly forty of our Patel Conservatory/NGB students will be competing in the upcoming Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) regionals in Tampa in January. The competition brings in judges from prestigious ballet schools from around the world.
“This is the most students I have ever overseen,” said Peter Stark, NGB artistic director. Stark has coached many students to success at YAGP competitions, including NGB New Artist Hannah Bettes, who won first place in the junior women’s division at the YAGP finals in New York City in March, 2011.
Our burgeoning ballet program has attracted talent from around the country, with many new NGB trainees (advanced-level students on a pre-professional ballet track) this year.
Instead of going on Christmas break, students are rehearsing over the next few weeks. Those who qualify at the regional competition will move on to the finals in the spring of 2012.
Best of luck and success to the following students who have qualified for regionals this year:

Addison Wright
Alexander Vargas
Allie Burman
Allenda Witzel
Anna Woodlief
Ariana Moore
Calvin Farias
Carlin Dixon
Chandler Hammond
Corbin Panturad
Dara Nicole
Emily Holt
Emma Town
Erica Loper
Gabriela Schiefer
Gabrielle Beach
Hannah Bettes
Hannah Stanford
Jackson Kettell
Josie O’Reilly
Kamron Vaziri
Katarina Smith
Kemper Cassada
Laura Schultz
Lauren Blakeney
Lauren Braner
Marisa Whiteman
Marta Kelly
Michael Hill
Mikhaila Whiteman
Olivia Gusti
Olivia Hobson
Samantha Posyton
Sasha Alvarez
Taylor Minich
Tristan Braboy
Vanessa Hernandez
William Dugan

Friday, December 16, 2011

Spotlight on Marta Kelly

Marta Kelly has performed the same choreography for The Nutcracker for the past few years.
This weekend, Kelly is looking forward to performing new original choreography for Next Generation Ballet’s The Nutcracker at the Straz Center in Tampa.
“My favorite role in The Nutcracker is Dew Drop,” said Kelly. “It’s so beautiful and powerful.”
One of Next Generation Ballet’s New Artists, Kelly will perform as Dew Drop as well as other roles for the various performances throughout the weekend, including the role of the Snow Queen alongside Boston Ballet soloist Jeffrey Cirio.
Born in Mexico, Kelly moved to Emerald Isle, NC when she was young with her twin sister, Maggie, and her mom. She began taking dance there and studied jazz, tap and lyrical dance.
One day, a senior level ballerina taught one of Kelly’s classes.
Struck by the teacher's grace, “I thought if I could change the way I dance, I could dance like her,” said Kelly. That was the defining moment that has led her to pursue a career in ballet.
When she was eight years old, she and her mom moved to Pompano Beach, FL so Kelly could study ballet with Magaly Suarez. She trained there for two years, then went to Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for five years.
Now 16 years old, Kelly moved to Tampa in the fall to train here at the Patel Conservatory.
“I love how we’re exposed to the different arts here,” said Kelly of being a part of the Straz Center an NGB artist.
When she goes to class, it’s not unusual for her to hear opera singers in the adjoining studios. She also feels she has a vast array of opportunities here, such as master classes with guest artists from the Straz, and competitions.
In January, Kelly will compete for the first time in the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) regional competition. The same weekend, she’ll perform in the YAGP Gala Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow.
“There’s so much going on here,” said Kelly, “It’s awesome!”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Behind the scenes of The Nutcracker: Rehearsals

Guest blog from Carol Cohen, adult dance student and cast member of The Nutcracker.
Gabrielle Beach and Jackson Kettell rehearse the
roles of the Arabian Leopard and her Trainer.
During our rehearsals of The Nutcracker, the cast has learned so much from Artistic Director Peter Stark. Here’s some of the most important things our dancers, including myself, have taken away from the rehearsal process.
  • Learn to play to the entire audience. Using The Addams Family as an example, Peter pointed out that the cast has to "play" to not only audience members in the orchestra seats in front of the stage, but to those in the box seats and up in the balcony and gallery areas.
  • Rehearsals are a prime opportunity to learn ALL roles. Be willing and able to step into a role at any time. Not only does it help to strengthen your skills but it could prove to be your big break in moving up from the Corps de Ballet. (NGB new artist William Dugan pointed this out in his interview with the Tampa Tribune.)
The Leopard and her Trainer rehearse
while Teacups and other dancers wait and
watch in the wings.
  • All students are expected to take responsibility for their costumes. Our costumes are part of a million dollar set. Many of them are very delicate. Dancers are expected to see to the care, fit, and location of all of their costumes and accessories during rehearsal/performance.
  • Learn from everyone, and show respect to all. When Bruce Marks visited the Patel Conservatory for a recent master class, Peter invited him to a Nutcracker rehearsal for his feedback. Dancers are expected to be open to constructive criticism. There’s always something to learn and ways to improve. Be open to it wherever you can.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Theater placement auditions this Thursday

Looking to join our theater department in the new year?
The Patel Conservatory in Tampa offers acting classes and musical theater classes for all ages and skill levels.
Join us this Thurs., Dec. 15, 2011 for placement in our spring, 2012 acting and theater classes.
Exceptional training
Since our inaugural year in 2004, we have observed the current theatrical talent base in the Tampa community, sought feedback from parents, students and faculty and employed the assistance of national and international guilds and professional advisors.
In an effort to foster well-rounded students, our musical theater classes offer training in voice, theater and dance. Using a team teaching approach, instructors with vast experience in their respective fields help students progress in each discipline. 

Over the past year, the Patel Conservatory theater department has also sculpted a streamlined track system in which all actors can progress through a series of benchmarks and flow from the classroom to rehearsals, and back into the classroom for the next level of advancement.
In order for our department to provide the student with the most ideal level of education, we now require placement for every student in grades two through college.
This year, we will also roll out a new evaluation process in which our students and parents can track tangible growth through our musical and non-musical theater programs for all of our theater students in grade two through college.
Leading up to the start of each session, we host specific placement dates. We are also able to provide individual placement for students joining mid-session.
Placement auditions
Thursday’s placement auditions for all acting and theater classes are open to prospective students in grades two through college. Auditions will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
RSVP is required. To schedule an appointment, call 813-222-6414.

Rock School band auditions for America's Got Talent

Apparently, Rock School Blowout is the place to be seen.
This summer one of our bands was asked to audition for Battle of the Bands. Another band, User Friendly, was recently asked to audition for America’s Got Talent when a local producer saw them perform at our fall Rock School Blowout.

“They were so good, they really stood out,” said Lori Fudens, mom of Sam Fudens, the guitarist and vocalist for User Friendly.
Sam was invited to join User Friendly in the fall by drummer Alex Carr, who had participated in our summer Rock School.
“We’ve known Alex since the kids were in preschool together,” said Lori.
Now 13, the kids made an impression on at least one audience member, who approached them after the concert about auditioning for America’s Got Talent at the Convention Center in Tampa.
“We got a producer’s pass to go up to the front of the line at the audition,” explained Lori, who attended the audition with the kids.
User Friendly includes Fudens, Carr, Thomas Prether and Jacob Fleming. The group had to bring all their equipment and perform a 90-second piece for the audition. They performed Rolling in the Deep, by Adele.
“There were a lot of people there, and a lot of adults,” said Lori, “Dancers, musicians, jugglers. User Friendly were among the first kids to go on.”
Once they set up their equipment, they discovered there was no mic. Undaunted, Sam impressed the judges by carrying her voice enough that the mic wasn’t necessary. This group of young musicians handled themselves expertly under pressure.
“It was perfect, every beat. They were all on cue,” said Lori.
The group won’t find out for a couple of months if they’ll get a callback. But even if they don’t get picked to go on national television, they’re happy they had the experience.
Now they routinely get together to jam and plan to keep the band together.
“They never would have done this if it wasn’t for Rock School,” said Lori. “It’s a higher level of teaching. And it’s a group setting, so there’s a whole new set of things to learn.”
If you play guitar, bass, drums or keyboard, and you’re ready to take your music lessons to a whole new level, join us at the next placement auditions for Rock School and Rock School, Jr. this January.
Rock School helps you take what you’ve learned in private music lessons and put it into practice. Participants are placed in a band according to their skill level, and all bands perform at the end of the session in our Rock School Blowout, a fun-filled concert on the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa.
Auditions for the Patel Conservatory’s Rock School session in Tampa will be Jan. 3, Jan. 7 and Jan. 10, 2012.
For more information, or to schedule an audition, contact Dee Lynch at, or call 813-222-6411.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Behind the scenes of The Nutcracker: Catch these cuties!

This weekend, these little cuties share the stage with ballet superstars Jose Manuel Carreno and Jeffrey Cirio in Next Generation Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. This production at the Straz Center in Tampa features original choreography by Artistic Director Peter Stark and extraordinary sets and costumes that are sure to dazzle.

These young caterpillars are students in the
Patel Conservatory Youth Ballet program,
which allows them the opportunity to
perform at the Straz Center.

Everyone--no matter how young--is expected to perform flawlessly.


Kennedy Falyn Cassada shows her holiday spirit with colorful pins on her leotard.

Cassada recently moved to Tampa so she and her brother Kemper Cassada, NGB trainee, could study with Stark at the Patel Conservatory.

In this weekend's The Nutcracker, Kennedy plays Clara's friend, a soldier and a Polichinelle.

These Faberge eggs practice dancing in their costumes.

Clara and her prince watch the Corps de Ballet perform.

*Photos by Carol Cohen

Friday, December 9, 2011

Acclaimed guitarist to teach at Patel Conservatory

Musician Dean Tidey has toured Europe, Australia, Japan and the United States. Now he’s bringing his knowledge and experience to the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center in Tampa.
Tidey has spent the last 12 years as guitarist for the acclaimed UK rock band Feeder. He’s also released albums with the bands Velvet Jones and Sandstone Veterans, and written, recorded and/or performed with many other artists including Alex Lloyd, Emm Gryner, Ozzy Osbourne, Kim Richey and Giles Martin.
“With the band Sandstone Veterans, we had the unique opportunity of touring Cuba, after initially going there by invitation,” said Tidey.
But family life has brought this rock star to settle down in Tampa, where he’s sharing his expertise with aspiring musicians.
Tidey moved to Tampa with his wife April, who grew up in Plant City, and son Elliot, 6. Since coming to Tampa, he’s kept busy as a a recording artist and music producer. This January, he adds teacher to his long list of accomplishments as he joins our Rock School team of instructors.
“When my wife and I first got together, I was touring constantly,” said Tidey. “It’s not ideal to have a family and be gone all the time.”
He jokes that touring can eventually be like living in the movie Groundhog Day. Always in an airport or hotel, “It’s the same thing over and over,” says Tidey.

Despite enjoying his long career on the road, he recently cut back on touring to be home more.
When he did a show with Kim Richey at the Straz Center, he learned about our Rock School program. He was touring at the time, but now that he’s staying closer to home, he’s decided to start teaching.
As a recording artist signed to George Martin’s company, he’s recorded with an array of bands and artists, which makes teaching a Rock School band a perfect fit.
“If there’s one thing I can do, I can help a band work together,” said Tidey.
With the addition of Tidey, Rock School will now be offered four days a week in January.
Rock School is open to anyone in grades two through adult, from beginner to advanced. Placement auditions will be Jan. 3, Jan. 7 and Jan. 10, 2012.
Come study with the best in the bay area!
For more information, or to schedule your audition, call 813-222-6411.

Patel Conservatory hosts YAGP in January, 2012

The world’s largest student ballet competition is coming to the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center in Tampa this January.

The Patel Conservatory is honored to be hosting the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) regional competition as well as the YAGP Gala the weekend of Jan. 20 through Jan. 22, 2012
“YAGP brings in judges from all over the world who are affiliated with famous ballet schools,” said Melissa Stafford, PCYB principal. “It’s an opportunity for students to be seen and to consider whether they want to pursue a professional dance career.”
Student who qualify at one of the regionals go to the prestigious YAGP finals in New York City next spring.
“If you make it to the final round in New York, it’s a chance to be seen by various schools and professional dance companies for consideration for their summer programs, and who may want to hire them someday,” said Stafford.
The competition brings with it a host of events throughout the weekend.
The regional competition takes place on Friday and Saturday, followed by master classes and an awards ceremony, hosted by Lissette Campos of WFTS ABC, on Saturday.
The weekend culminates with the acclaimed performance of the YAGP Gala tour of Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow on Sunday.
The prestigious YAGP Gala, which sells out annually in New York City, features stars from top ballet companies performing alongside up-and-coming talent.
Last year, two of our NGB new artists performed in the YAGP Gala in New York. This year, as the winner of last year’s YAGP’s Outstanding School Award, the Patel Conservatory’s NGB dancers will perform a piece in the YAGP Gala.
Tickets are on sale now for the Stars of Today Meet Stars of Tomorrow performance in Ferguson Hall on Jan. 22, 2012.

Theater guest blog: Cherish each moment

Theater guest blog by Braxton Perry, cast member for Our Town

Ah… Christmas is in the air. Even as I write this, I’m listening to a techno remix of the Nutcracker’s ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ theme. It looks like it’s going to be a good holiday season.

Before writing this post, I looked over each of the past blogs I’ve written. It’s odd keeping a blog like this because you see yourself changing. Almost four months have passed, but it seems like such a short time since I started.
Now for the bittersweet: the production that I was in of Our Town is over. The opening day was actually two weeks ago and we did four shows, but I didn’t get a chance to write this blog until now because of Thanksgiving break. I’m happy and I had a great time learning some great things. I’m glad I managed to finish the production, but at the same time I’m having a play withdrawal. I’m so used to meeting everyone almost every night that it’s odd not seeing them.
Since I’m obsessed with dance (though I’m not that great of a dancer yet), I’m starting to realize how important acting is the more I go to the Nutcracker rehearsals. I understand why Ms. Susan Downey suggested I take theater to help with dance. When you have to dance and act, being able to do both and focus is sometimes hard.
Looking back on Patel Conservatory’s production of Our Town, from day one our director, Kerry Glamsch tried to stress the moral of the play. The idea is to realize what’s around you “every minute...To look at one another as if we really saw each other.” I know I haven’t completely grasped it, because it’s such a deep idea. Nevertheless, it’s slowly bringing me to appreciate everything that is around me, and to cherish each moment. Whether of fun or pain, joy or sorrow, each moment makes us who we are, and within that, human. So it’s interesting. All of it.
Besides learning invaluable skills on how the whole process of how acting works, from lighting to blocking, and from acting to makeup application, I think I’ve learned something I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life. I’m sure some plays you can’t apply what you play on stage to real life, but I’m glad I had the chance to be in this play.
If you’re considering joining the theater program, I would say go for it. The next production is coming this spring, and the training process starts in just a month. Whether for recreation or to improve your skills for a career in acting, taking theater classes here at the Patel Conservatory is definitely a great idea.
And lastly, the farewell: This is the last blog I’ll be writing about the play Our Town. Thanks for following me along on one of my adventures. Even if I don’t write another blog about something else in the future, I’m sure you’ll hear about me sooner or later (maybe a vlog hint hint). If not, I’m almost always hanging around the Patel Conservatory’s campus taking classes.
Things I like:
The ability we have to change ourselves.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NGB dancers find their rhythm

Last week, the dancers of Next Generation Ballet got the opportunity to switch gears for an afternoon.

Contrary to their normal poise and grace, they had a great time swinging their hips to the Cuban rhythms of the Kings of Salsa.
Kings of Salsa performed at the Straz Center last Thursday evening. Dance company members Lia Rg and Geminiano Alejandro took time out of their afternoon prior to the performance for a master class with NGB dancers.
“It was so much fun,” said NGB new artist Marta Kelly. “It was a mixture of their cultural dances. It’s a rhythm that you have to feel.”
The class is just one of the many great opportunities our students enjoy being part of the Straz Center.
“Like when we got to do Broadway Ball,” said Kelly, “Ballet dancers don’t usually get asked to do salsa.”
With theater, music and dance under one roof, sharing theaters and rehearsal space with touring artists and Broadway shows, there’s always something happening . Our youth orchestra recently performed to a crowd in Morsani lobby prior to a Florida Orchestra concert.
Coming soon, Black Violin will offer a master class and demonstration to some of our outreach students, and in February, the Improvised Shakespeare Company will offer a workshop open to the public.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Give the gift of the performing arts!

Looking for a unique gift for the arts lover in your family? The Straz Center offers gift cards!
Straz Center gift cards can be used for classes at the Patel Conservatory, so your loved one can try something new in the new year! From music lessons to adult dance classes, there’s something for everyone at our world renowned performing arts center.

Another great gift is our adult dance card. Great for college students or busy professionals on the go, purchase a 5- or 10-class card, which can be used for any of our adult dance classes.
The fact that students come from all over the Tampa Bay area, and even other cities and states, to train and study here is truly a testament to the magic of this place.
Give the gift of the performing arts to someone you know, and help them to discover their talents, create something special and reach their dreams!
For more information, call 813-229-STAR (7827).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Learn to play the guitar

So you’ve always wanted to learn how to play the guitar? The Patel Conservatory in Tampa has opened up a new guitar class.
We now offer both Guitar I and Guitar II, so students can work on their guitar skills with others in the same age range and skill level.
Whether you’re a kid, or just a kid at heart, we have the right class for you! Children and adults can learn how to play the guitar in a comfortable and relaxed environment.
These group classes teach basic techniques for learning how to play the guitar, including reading music, chords and tablature.
When you’re ready to take it to the next level, we also offer private guitar lessons and our popular Rock School program.
For more information, visit our website or call 813-222-1002.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Discovering the unknown

As a well-traveled and experienced musician, violinist Nicole Benton has performed with an array of well-known artists, from the Florida Orchestra and Opera Tampa to Clay Aiken, Johnny Mathis and Mannheim Steamroller.
But her greatest joy as a musician is to discover the unknown.
“I love finding pieces that no one has discovered, and playing that for an audience,” said Benton, a violin instructor at the Patel Conservatory and a member of the USF President’s Trio.
Benton grew up in Ashland, KY where she began her music career in a small after-school orchestra. “I would attribute my love of violin to divine intervention. No one in my family played an instrument,” said Benton.
Not many kids fall in love with classical music, but it was a passion for Benton, who has a Master of Music Performance from Kent State University. She’s currently working on a second and third master’s degree in both musicology and chamber music.
“I love music that has a story to it,” said Benton. In her quest for unique pieces to perform, she discovered Jan Truhlar, a Czech composer oppressed by Communism.
Benton became intrigued by Truhlar’s life story. She spent a summer in Prague and had the opportunity to meet and get to know him. She’s now working on writing his biography.
“Finding pieces that no one has heard or seen performed is one of the greatest things a performer can bring to the stage,” said Benton.
In addition to performing, Benton began teaching early on. When still in high school at Lincoln Park Academy in Fort Pierce, Fla., she started a summer strings camp for kids who couldn’t otherwise afford a music camp.
On a recent outreach visit to her former high school, “Two students actually came up to me and told me they wanted to be music majors because of my camp.”
Apparently, she leaves a lasting impression.
She says, “I’ve had the best teachers that have not only taught me how to play, but also how to put words to the things I’ve experienced outside of the classroom.”
Benton is paying it forward.

Learn more about Benton at her website, or for information about private violin lessons at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, call 813-222-1002.