Thursday, June 28, 2012

Joshua Grosso wins National Jimmy Award

by Tina James, Education Programs Coordinator for the Patel Conservatory
(On behalf of the Straz Center, Tina accompanied students to New York for the National High School Musical Theater Awards. Below is part of her series that took us through their exciting week. This updated post gives a more detailed account of the event than a previous post.)
Road to the Jimmy Awards – Day 5 and 6

From left, Joshua Grosso, Tina James and Samantha Schneider-Behen
The last blog post ended the day on Friday. Saturday and Sunday were pretty much the same in terms of rehearsals with the exception of the Judge’s performance on Sunday.
The Judge’s performance is the judge’s first opportunity to see the students perform. The students performed both their medleys and their solos. The medleys consisted of excerpts of songs from the nominees awarded performances merged together to create a unique storyline. This gave the judges an opportunity to see what role the nominees won. The solos were songs that the students selected to showcase their vocal talents.
Samantha sang, “Say the Word” from The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown. Joshua sang, “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” from The Light in the Piazza.

This was the first time we had an opportunity to see the students perform. They both were amazing!

In addition to performing their medleys and solos, they also performed the opening number.
Now it’s Monday and the excitement is in the air. Everyone was up bright and early and ready to head to the Minskoff Theatre. We all boarded the buses and headed to BROADWAY!
The Minskoff Theatre on Broadway is home to Disney’s The Lion King. The students were amazed to perform on the same stage as the artists from this amazing production.
Throughout the day, students went through blocking, sound check and rehearsed with an orchestra.
Finally it was time: the moment we’ve all been waiting for... The students have all worked hard for this day. The curtain went up and the students took their places on stage. Let the show begin!
Once the opening number was complete, the students took the stage in their various medley groups. Samantha sang a portion of “You Don’t Know This Man” from Parade and Joshua sang, “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera.

Then it was time to announce the finalist. They would name three females and three males. The first finalist called was…Joshua Grosso!

The six finalists left stage to prepare for their solo performances. Joshua was the first to take the stage and he blew the audience away, receiving a standing ovation. Joshua performed, “Il Mondo Era Vuoto” from The Light in the Piazza
Joshua Grosso, Best Actor at the National High
School Musical Theater Awards!
The solos were complete and the judges deliberated. Then it was time to name the finalist...
Joshua’s name was called first. He was selected as Best Actor and received the coveted Jimmy Award. As a winner, Joshua will receive a $10,000 scholarship towards his college education.
Congratulations to Joshua Grosso! We are so very proud of him and we wish him all the best at Carnegie Mellon University.
- Tina
(As the Education Programs Coordinator for the Patel Conservatory, Tina oversees the Conservatory’s Community Partnership program as well as all community-based programs involving Broadway Family Nights, Family First Night, National High School Musical Theater Awards as well as National Broadway League initiatives.) 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Added performance of Normal, the Musical

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve added an extra performance of Normal, the Musical this Friday, June 29 at 4 p.m.
Watching rehearsals this week, it’s hard to believe that this whole show came together in under three weeks!
From the choreography to the live accompaniment, this fun, exciting rock musical will not only have you moving to the music, it will also touch your heart.
The show tells the story of one family’s journey as they deal with the daughter’s eating disorder, but more than that, it’s the story of today’s family. It’s hard not to be moved because the characters are just so relatable to parents and teens of today’s society.
Take advantage of this opportunity to sit back and see life from an outside perspective. It’ll grab you, make you dance, sing and think of all that there is to be grateful for... like having just a normal day.
Accompanied by our music students in the summer Pit Orchestra camp, the show features Maggie Mularz as Kayla, Jamie Jones as Robert, Hannah Rashbaum as Polly and Lucy Gutierrez as Rebecca.
Normal, the Musical will be in the Shimberg Theater at the Straz Center this weekend. Show times are Fri., June 29 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., and Sat., June 30 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets are $8 through June 28, and $12 on June 29 and 30. Click here for more info.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dancer from Panama joins us for NGB summer intensive

The Next Generation Ballet (NGB) summer intensive started this week, and we’re thrilled to be hosting students from around the country and around the globe, including Cristel Alvarado of Panama City, Panama.
Cristel Alvarado, 15, of Panama, joins
us this week for the NGB summer
As a classical ballerina who hopes to make dance her living, Cristel has been exploring her options for serious ballet training.
“We’re constantly looking at competitions and looking at where the students come from,” said Cristel’s father Pete Garcia.
“When we saw that Next Generation Ballet was really starting to make a mark, we wanted to look at it,” he said.
A native of the Tampa area, Garcia owns an adventure company that brought him around the world. In 1997, he moved to Panama City to help develop high end excursions for a new resort. There, he met his wife Nelly and decided to stay.
Their only daughter Cristel started dancing at age seven. She soon realized that dance was her calling. The following year, she began studying with Maitre Amparo Brito, of the Cuban National Ballet.
Cristel has performed with the National Ballet of Panama and with the Laura Alonso Ballet in Havana, Cuba, and she’s a three time gold medal winner at Panama’s Danza Activa competitions.
In 2011, Cristel began training at the Laura Alonso Ballet School in Havana, where early this year, she was selected as one of only seven classical dancers to perform privately for Fidel and Raul Castro.
But traveling to Cuba for training is costly, said Garcia, who plays the role of dance dad.
Nelly works for Boskalis, a Dutch Dredging and Marine Company that does work on the Panama Canal. Since he owns his company (Panama Pete Adventures), Pete has more flexibility with his schedule.
“I’m the one who travels with my daughter, and runs out to the store when we accidentally got ‘theatrical pink’ tights and need ‘ballet pink’,” he laughed.
In researching the best places for 15-year-old Cristel to continue ballet, Garcia’s search brought him back to his hometown.
At a competition in Panama they met dancer Katherine Gazda, from Canada, who attended the NGB summer intensive in Tampa last year.
“When we saw what the Patel Conservatory did for Katherine in two weeks...we thought we need to be there,” said Garcia.
“Our child has never been to America, and here we are, back in my hometown. We’re just overjoyed,” said Garcia, a former wrestler for East Bay High School and wrestling coach for Jesuit High School. He’s looking forward to re-connecting with former wrestling teammates while in Tampa.
Staying with his mom in Ruskin, he and Cristel practice speaking English on their commute to the Conservatory.
If all works out, he’s thinking of making the move to Tampa so Cristel can train full-time with NGB.
“We know she wants this as her career,” said Garcia. “Just the whole vibe of the Straz Center on the river. We feel like this is Cristel’s future.”

Patel Conservatory receives accreditation!

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center is excited to announce that we have officially been granted accreditation!
“Accreditation is such a great accomplishment for the entire organization,” said Wendy Leigh, vice president of education at the Straz Center. “It confirms all the great work that we’ve done over eight years and points us brightly towards the future.”
Being an accredited school means that students have the opportunity to receive school credit for classes taken at the Conservatory, if the student’s school agrees.
To become accredited, the Patel Conservatory underwent an extensive two-year evaluation and review process. 
The process involved dozens of people associated with the Conservatory, such as parents, board members, students, teachers and community members, working closely together. We are proud that the Conservatory more than surpassed all of the stringent qualifications.
Accreditation was received by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (SACS CASI), an accreditation division of AdvancED. Hillsborough County Public Schools, Palm Beach County Public Schools and Miami-Dade City County Public Schools also are accredited by SACS CASI.
“Our accreditation gives students more alternatives and opportunities to expand their horizons. This distinction will open new doors for all of us and will continue to keep us on an ongoing rigorous path of continuous improvement, keeping us at the top of our game,” said Leigh.
Thank you to all the wonderful faculty, staff and community members who helped us achieve this distinguished status.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day Two in NYC for the National Jimmy Awards

by Tina James, Education Programs Coordinator for the Patel Conservatory
Road to the Jimmy Awards – Day 2

I think the proper place to begin today is where we left off yesterday. When we gathered for the Welcome Reception & Dinner at Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, I can tell that both Sam and Joshua were excited but nervous. They have no idea what is in store for them over the next couple of days. It’s one thing to see the schedule on paper, but to actually live it is something different.
During the reception we meet over 58 other students representing 29 programs across the U.S. Each program, similar to ours, has one female actress and one male actor representing their programs. To get a full list of all the nominees you can visit
At this point you’re probably wondering, What are the National High School Musical Awards and how do these students get here? 
Throughout the year, thousands of high school students across the country participate in a regional awards program or competition that highlights the excellence of students in musical theater. For us, this program is the Florida State Thespian Festival. Although this festival and other regional awards programs have been presented by theaters in select cities, there has never been a program that connected these local programs to each other or to the professional theater industry.
In June 2009, the National High School Musical Theater Awards became the first program to present a national award, the Jimmy™ Award, for the "Best Performance by an Actor" and "Best Performance by an Actress." Winners are selected from a group of student performers representing participating theaters that are members of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, Consortium of Eastern Regional Theaters, Theatre Communications Group or the Broadway League. 
The Jimmy™ Award is named after James M. Nederlander. “Jimmy” is the Chairman of the Nederlander Producing Company. Some would consider Jimmy the patriarch of theater. He has produced innumerable Broadway plays and musicals, winning 11 Tony® Awards, and has presented operas, ballets, concerts and artists ranging from Nureyev to Sinatra to Billy Joel to U2. Nine of his theatres are on Broadway and the balance in Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Durham, Chicago and London. For more information on James “Jimmy” Nederlander and his many projects and theaters you can visit
Now that we’ve got some of the history out of the way…let’s get on with today. Today’s schedule will be just as packed a yesterday. One of the highlights will be attending the Tony Award Winning Broadway performance of Nice Work If You Can Get It.  The cast includes Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara (
We’ll check in with you later!
Today’s schedule:
  • 8:00am-8:30am – Breakfast
  • 8:30am-8:45am – Warm-up/Review Opening and Finale Vocals
  • 8:45am-10:15am – Stage Opening Number
  • 10:15am-12:15pm – Rehearsal/Solo Coaching
  • 12:15pm-1:00pm – Lunch
  • 1:00pm-4:15pm – Medleys/Solo Coaching/Review
  • 5:30-6:30pm – Pre-Show Dinner at Sardi’s
  • 7:00pm-10:35pm – Broadway Show – Nice Work If You Can Get It (Imperial Theatre); Talkback immediately following the show
  • 10:45pm – Group Photo in Times Square
(As the Education Programs Coordinator for the Patel Conservatory, Tina oversees the Conservatory’s Community Partnership program as well as all community-based programs involving Broadway Family Nights, Family First Night, National High School Musical Theater Awards as well as National Broadway League initiatives.) 

Local students vie for the national Jimmy Awards in NYC

by Tina James, Education Programs Coordinator for the Patel Conservatory
Samantha Schneider-Behen and Joshua Grosso represent
the Straz Center at the National High School Musical
Theater Awards this week in New York City.
During the Florida State Thespian Festival in March, the Straz Center awarded the Broadway Star of the Future award to Samantha Schinder-Behen of Howard W. Blake School of the Arts and Jordan Rodnizki of Countryside High School. Those students would go on to represent the Straz Center at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in NYC.
Since March a few things have changed. Jordan will not be joining Samantha in New York due to a prior commitment, and Joshua Grosso from American Heritage will be taking his place. 
Yesterday was day one of Sam and Joshua’s seven day adventure in NYC. Over the next couple of days I’ll provide you with an inside look into the daily schedule and events happening with our Broadway Star of the Future awardees. So lets begin!
I meet Sam bright and early at Tampa International Airport. 8:45am to be exact! Based on our experience this morning in the airport, I can tell this week will be full of interesting encounters. Once our flight landed in NYC, we meet up with Joshua and we are officially on the “Road to the Jimmy’s”!
Sam being interviewed by PBS, which is producing a
documentary about high school musical performers.
Here is a quick snap shot of yesterday's schedule:
  • 3:00pm-5:30pm – Check-in
  • 6:00pm-7pm – Welcome Reception & Dinner
  • 7:00pm-10:30pm – Group Assignments & Rehearsal
As you can see, Sam and Joshua hit the ground running! 

Check back for more updates...write with you soon!

- Tina James
(As the Education Programs Coordinator for the Patel Conservatory, Tina oversees the Conservatory’s Community Partnership program as well as all community-based programs involving Broadway Family Nights, Family First Night, National High School Musical Theater Awards as well as National Broadway League initiatives.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Emilia Sargent in Streetcar Named Desire

Want to see one of our instructors in action?
Patel Conservatory theater instructor Emilia Sargent appears this weekend as Blanche in Tampa Repertory Theatre’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Sargent, who has been recognized as a Best of the Bay Critic's Choice Actress, directed the Patel Conservatory’s Seussical the Musical and Once Upon a Mattress.
She’ll soon be directing this summer’s Beauty and the Beast, Jr. as part of the Patel Conservatory Youth Theater program.
Don’t miss Sargent as Blanche DuBois in the Tennessee Williams classic. The production runs through June 24, 2012 at Studio Theatre on the Ybor City campus of Hillsborough Community College.
For more information, visit

Friday, June 15, 2012

Vote for Hannah Bettes for Dance Spirit cover!

Congratulations to NGB New Artist Hannah Bettes who has been selected as one of three finalists to be a cover model for the October issue of Dance Spirit Magazine.
Dance Spirit  readers will select the winning dancer.

Vote for Hannah by visiting!
Voting starts June 15 at 9 a.m. and closes July 31
Hannah Bettes in Swan Lake at the Straz Center.
“Hannah was chosen because of her exceptional ballet technique, her poise and her maturity,” said Alison Feller, editor in chief at Dance Spirit.

Hannah entered the contest by posting a performance video on

"The Dance Spirit editors watched the video and knew she had to be in the contest. She has lovely legs and feet, gorgeous extension and a strong upper body. Hannah is a powerful yet delicate dancer,” said Feller.
Bettes and the other finalists (Alyssa Ness from Ramsey, Minn. and Megan Skalla from Draper, Utah) spent three days in New York City in April dancing in master classes and being photographed and videotaped for the contest. 
Winner of several international awards, Bettes most recently came in first in the Youth America Grand Prix competition in New York City in April. Prior to that, she came in second and was honored with “Audience Favorite” in Switzerland’s Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland, earning a full scholarship to the prestigious Royal Ballet School (RBS) in London. Only 15 females are accepted each year into the RBS program.
As an aside, Next Generation Ballet alumna Hannah Beach, now studying on a full scholarship at RBS, has just been given the accolade of being moved up in the program. She’ll skip a full year of training, bringing her closer to her goal of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Currently, Bettes and two other NGB dancers are competing at the Fourth Annual Beijing International Invitational competition, all expenses paid by the competition. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Thoughts from the cast of Normal: the Musical!

Hello Tampa Bay! The first week of rehearsal for Normal: the Musical has almost come to an end and the company wanted to share their initial thoughts on the show with you. We hope to see you in the audience on July 29 and 30.

“This musical breaks down the walls of taboo and inspires everyone who has the privilege to see it.” - Orlagh O. 
“It’s very relatable. The musical is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before." - Hannah

“This musical inspires me to explore myself and contemplate what really is “NORMAL.”  Skylar B.
NORMAL the musical is a realistic and dramatic production about a dysfunctional family.” - Anonymous Cast Member

“The show is a seemingly great representation of the intensity of a day in the life.” - Lucy G. 
“You can expect tears, but also expect some comedy. This musical will definitely bring you into the world of one dysfunctional family, who learn many things on their journey.” -Jessica 
“The show is really insightful. Not just a show about an eating disorder.” - Jamie J. 
“Not a show about disorders, it’s NORMAL.” - Ryan S. 
“I want to tell the world to make mistakes big and loud so they can be corrected and not go unnoticed.” - Anonymous Cast Member

“This show is about a family that pays no attention to one another, but gets pulled down by Polly when her family discovers she has an eating disorder. - Allegra B.

Here’s what the cast thought of the first rehearsal of Normal: the Musical.

“Today I thought we learned and accomplished a lot. We were able to learn background info, read through the play, and learn a song in the 1st rehearsal.
                                                                                                -Victoria S.
“The first day was so informative. We were able to have an open forum discussion, learning about the subject matter of the show. This enabled us to feel comfortable as a cast.
                                                                                                - Anonymous Cast Member
“Today at rehearsal, I learned more about eating disorders and we leaned about family relationships. We also read through the script from NORMAL.
                                                                                                -Rosina S.
“Today at rehearsal, we not only learned about musical theater, but we also learned about anorexia awareness. I am so excited to improve my singing and acting also learn new things.”
                                                                                                -Shelby P.

NGB dancers compete in Beijing

Congratulations to Next Generation Ballet dancers who are competing this weekend in China!
Excited dancers at the airport yesterday headed
to Beijing.
The Beijing International Ballet Invitational for Dance Schools is an invitation only competition hosted by the Beijing Dance Academy. The competition aims to promote worldwide exchange and development of ballet education and training, and, to that end, invites only the top ballet schools in the world to participate.
The Patel Conservatory is honored to be represented by NGB dancers Hannah Bettes, William Dugan and Gabrielle Beach.
We wish them a weekend full of excitement and adventure!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Former students return as teachers

Welcome back to some of our very first students who are returning to us as interns and teachers!
They started as students here in our theater department at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, come before the building was even built, and return to us to share their knowledge and experience.
Davis Brown, front center in our the Patel
Conservatory's first musicals, Godspell
Davis Brown was in many of our early Patel Conservatory Youth Theater (PCYT) productions in his elementary years. He currently attends Interlochen Arts Academy, a performing arts high school in Michigan. This summer he returns to us as a theater apprentice in technical theater and film. He’ll help with camera work and editing for the Making a Short Film camp and scenic and lighting work for our PCYT productions.
Maggie Mularz was an intern at the Conservatory as a high school student. She went on to study at Juliard and returns to us this summer in her first adjunct faculty position. She’ll be a teacher’s assistant for PCYT’s Normal: the Musical and the Making a Short Film camp. She’ll also be teaching the Intro to Performing Arts camp for preschoolers.
Zach Mullen was part of our early PCYT shows as an elementary student. He’ll be studying theater performance and directing at the New School in New York City this fall. This summer he’ll be a theater apprentice at the Conservatory, with a focus on directing and technical theater. He’ll also be coordinating our student theater bloggers/vloggers. (Look for our summer theater blogs soon!)
Former student Ian Burns has been a theater apprentice for the past year. He continues with us this summer as a teacher’s assistant for Aesop’s Fables as he helps students bring written stories to the stage.
Congratulations to these students for pursuing their passions and are now working their field!
We are now accepting resumes for our fall theater internships and apprentice positions. For more information, please click here.

Normal welcomes panelists for post-show discussions

 Cast of Normal: the Musical at the Patel Conservatory, from left to right:
Hannah Rashbaum, Jamie Jones, Maggie Mularz and Lucy Gutierrez
Parents and teenagers, mark your calendars for our PCYT production of Normal: the Musical on June 29 and 30, 2012.
The rock musical is about how a family deals with their teenager’s eating disorder. While it tackles some tough topics in a fun and entertaining way, it also serves as a platform to help teens address stress. The show was adapted specifically for educational school productions.
To that end, following each performance, there will be a talkback discussion with medical professionals and members of the Conservatory creative team.
“The post-show discussions will be geared towards discussing larger issues in the musical’s content, such as stress-management, and what has become ‘normalized’ in today's culture in terms of self-care, or lack thereof,” said assistant director Matthew Belopavlovich.
Joining us for the talkbacks will be local medical professionals Elisha Contner, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist; Kourtney Gordon, from Fairwinds Treatment Center; and Johanna Kandel, founder and CEO of the Alliance for Eating Disorders.

In addition to the post-show talkbalks, Kandel will speak prior to Saturday night’s performance.

Kandel is the author of Life Beyond Your Eating Disorder. She will speak about her personal struggle with an eating disorder and road to recovery at 6 p.m. on Sat., June 30, 2012.

The educational panels are provided by the Normal non-profit organization which strives to educate families and teens about eating disorders, self-esteem and body image through arts and mindfulness programs.

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect and share in an open dialogue about universal issues that affect today’s teens.
The show runs Fri., June 29 at 4 and 7 p.m., and Sat., June 30 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center in downtown Tampa. Regularly priced tickets start at $8.

For more about the show, click here.

For tickets, click here, or call 813.229.STAR (7827).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Adult classes start this week!

 This week kicks off our summer classes at the Patel Conservatory in downtown Tampa, and what a busy week it’s been!
It’s fantastic to see so many new faces trying out an array of adult classes, from ballet to acting.
It’s not too late to join us!
Try something new, or rekindle your passion for the performing arts with classes in dance, theater and music.
Our adult dance classes offer friendship, community, exercise and fun. Choose from tap, jazz, hip hop, ballet, contemporary or Latin. Register for one, or try them all with our adult dance card.
Whether you’re a beginner, a seasoned actor, or a professional who wants to gain confidence in front of an audience, our adult acting classes can help you learn new techniques in a comfortable environment.
If you’ve always wanted to pick up an instrument, check out our private and group guitar and piano lessons to our popular Rock School.
With so many options, you’re sure to find a class that suits you and your schedule.
For questions or more information, call us at 813-222-1002, or click here for our online brochure.

NGB's Landon Harris takes bronze at WBC

Landon Harris at the World Ballet Competition

Congratulations to NGB New Artist Landon Harris for winning the Bronze Medal in the pre-professional division at 2012 World Ballet Competition!
“Whenever I get on stage, whether it’s a show or a competition, I always think about it as a performance. So as long as I feel good about what I’ve done, the medal doesn’t matter. It’s a perk,” said Harris.

The competition was held May 29 - June 3 in Orlando.
Harris, 14, joined Next Generation Ballet early this spring. He recently received notice for his role as the jester in Swan Lake.
This summer, he’ll be filming a movie in New York before heading to London to train with the Royal Ballet.
Writer/director Anthony Giunta noticed Harris when he was in the touring production of Billy Elliot last year. Giunta called him and asked him to audition for his independent film Contest, about teen bullying.
“I’ve tried to give him different experiences because I knew he’d have to decide by the time he was 15 if dance was what he wanted to do,” said Harris’ mom Bev. “Why not try different things before you make that decision. That’s why we’re doing this film.”
However, since joining the Patel Conservatory’s full-time ballet program as an NGB New Artist, Harris says his goal is to be a principal dancer with a ballet company.
At the Conservatory, “It’s been amazing, I get a lot more hands-on attention since I’m there all day. Having different teachers, we get different aspects of training. It’s been a really positive experience,” said Harris.
Part of what he enjoys about the program is the opportunity to work in professional productions, such as Swan Lake.
“It’s a great experience to actually get on stage and do the shows that you’ll be doing as a professional. It helps prepare you for whatever’s coming up,” he said.