Friday, September 28, 2012

Conservatory To-Go! helps schools supplement curriculum

The Patel Conservatory is pleased to announce a new partnership with Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) Catholic School in Tampa.

Students at MHR will take violin
lessons as part of the
Conservatory-To-Go! program.
Through our Conservatory To-Go! program, we’re now offering arts education classes on MHR’s campus as part of the school’s curriculum.

When Thom Laux took over as principal last year at MHR, he knew the school needed to improve their arts programming.

“Although a lot of public schools are taking out arts education, we knew it was important to put it in,” said Laux.

Laux had previously worked at the Metropolitan Ministries partnership school, a school for homeless and at-risk students where the Conservatory holds outreach classes.

“It was a great partnership... the talent of the instructors, they were incredible,” said Laux.

When looking to supplement the curriculum at MHR, he said, “My goal was to get Patel because I wanted the best.”

By utilizing the resources of the Conservatory, which is an accredited arts institution, MHR is able to bring quality arts education to their students during the day on their campus.

“When I introduced the partnership at the end of last year, our community was buzzing,” said Laux.

He says parents, students and faculty have been thrilled with the new classes.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade participate in age appropriate theater and music classes taught by Patel Conservatory instructors.

For music, students in 3rd through 8th grades receive fundamental music instruction and violin lessons. Older students may also have the opportunity to learn woodwind and percussion instruments with the possibility of a band class.

For theater, students in 5th through 8th grades will have a full year drama class and the opportunity to participate in Patel Conservatory Youth Theater productions at the Conservatory, such as Kiss Me, Kate and Music Man, Jr..

“The drama class is unreal, fantastic. I could see how it will help in the classroom. The activity [the instructor] was doing the other day looked like a game, but it was teaching [students] things like concentration,” said Laux.

Even if kids don't pursue the arts, exposure to the arts helps them build confidence, discipline and creativity, he said.

“But if it excites them, and opens the door for kids who have the talent and want to pursue that, the goal has been accomplished.”

Some music classes will also be offered at Morning Star School, a special needs school on MHR’s campus.

The Conservatory To-Go! program is the perfect solution for schools like MHR who want more arts education, but don’t have the internal resources.

“We’re still that hidden jewel in the community that many people don’t know about,” said Tina James, Education Programs Coordinator at the Conservatory.

“For MHR it gives them the performing arts that they’ve been missing, and for us, it expands our reach into the community and helps fulfill our mission,” which is to help students dream, reach, discover and create through the performing arts.

Laux says, “Having the Patel Conservatory at our school has made our school better.”

For more information about the Conservatory To-Go! program, please call 813.222.1002.

NGB students gear up for YAGP

Hannah Bettes, former NGB student, at a YAGP competition.
Students of Patel Conservatory’s Next Generation Ballet (NGB) will be participating in their first round of Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) auditions this weekend.

On Saturday morning, advanced ballet students will participate in a warm-up class followed by the audition that will decide who will qualify to go to the YAGP regional competition held at the Straz Center in January.

This year, qualifying students will be selected by an outside panel of judges rather than Patel Conservatory faculty.

“This is a new initiative to have outside eyes select they recommend to compete at YAGP,” said Claire Olson, dance manager at the Conservatory.

The judges for the auditions will be Bruce Marks, Andrew Carroll, Robert de Warren and Jack Clark. Judges will use the same judging sheet used at YAGP, so students will have an accurate assessment of how they'll be judged at the competition.

Historically, NGB students have placed well at YAGP competitions, winning scholarships from prestigious ballet schools around the world. Many have gone on to compete at the finals in New York City, where Patel Conservatory received YAGP's Outstanding School Award in 2011.

The YAGP competition in January will include a final gala, featuring the best competitors alongside international ballet stars. The Gala will be filmed and broadcasted through Emerging Pictures Dance and Cinema Series.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bring your group for a Day at the Straz

Looking for a unique field trip for your class or homeschool group? Registration is now available for the 2012-2013 Day at the Straz.
A Day at the Straz Center is a field trip opportunity that offers a behind-the-scenes experience at the Straz Center and the Patel Conservatory.

Recommended to be held in conjunction with a field trip performance, a Day at the Straz includes a tour and an interactive theater-based workshop.

During the tour, students will explore the five-theater Straz Center for the Performing Arts complex, the largest performing arts venue in the southeast. They’ll learn what it’s like for performers and crew backstage, hear about the Straz Center’s 25-year history and visit the state-of-the-art studios of the Conservatory.

After the tour, students have a brown bag lunch in Maestro’s CafĂ©, then continue to the Conservatory to participate in a workshop geared towards their grade level.

Through the workshop, students and teachers get to work with professional artists on staff at the Conservatory. They’ll have fun learning performance tips from the pros and strengthen their overall arts education experience.

Register your group to come enjoy a day in the life of the performing arts!

For more information about A Day at the Straz, call 813.222.1002 or visit

Friday, September 21, 2012

Spotlight on Adam Wagner

The Patel Conservatory welcomes musical theater instructor Adam Wagner to our full-time faculty.

Working in conjunction with our music department, the theater department has developed a pre-professional track for acting students who want to pursue a career in musical theater.

To that end, Wagner joined the Conservatory to help oversee the musical theater program.

“I love that this is an educational and extracurricular program, but not something that’s just an after school activity. It really is a high quality performance conservatory,” said Wagner, who is directing the fall PCYT production of Kiss Me, Kate.

Originally from Chesterton, Indiana, Wagner is a graduate of the musical theater program at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. He also studied dramatic arts at the British Academy of Dramatic Arts in Oxford, England.

An award-winning artist and self-taught pianist, he’s worn many hats including actor, composer, producer, director and choreographer.

Most recently, he served as the artistic director at the Grandstreet Theatre in Helena, Mont. which combined a community theater company with a theater education program.

“I really felt like I was making a difference in the community,” he said. “To educate is an incredible challenge for me and really exciting. I get to share things I love, and encourage and arm students with confidence, creative expression and the ability to trust themselves.”

With shows like Kiss Me, Kate, he gets to fuse his varied artistic skills. Performed by high school and college aged students enrolled at the Patel Conservatory, the show is treated as a class so they get the educational experience, as well as the experience of being in a professional level production.

“I’m at home at a place that is continually developing new programs and striving the for the best,” he said.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

How to get your kids to practice

Practice makes perfect, or so the saying goes. When it comes to learning an instrument, perfection may not be the goal, but practice is certainly a sure path to success. 

But even kids who love music don’t always love to practice, as Sue Chung can attest.

Sue’s son Josh is an 8-year-old Suzuki violin student at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa.

When Josh was in kindergarten, he got the opportunity to try violin in school, which prompted him to ask him mom for violin lessons. He started private lessons at the Conservatory last summer and enjoyed it so much that they continued through the school year.

“I’m just thrilled because I want him to love and appreciate music and art,” said Sue. And she knows that his violin lessons have academic and social benefits. The Suzuki program incorporates both a private lesson and a group lesson once a week. “It’s a fun time for them...They make friends and it’s a great motivator.”

But even Josh, who genuinely enjoys violin lessons, doesn’t always stay on track when it comes to practice. Here are some things Sue does to keep him focused.

Get involved
A large part of the Suzuki teaching method is parental involvement. Sue actually took a couple of violin lessons herself so she could help Josh with his technique and practice at home.
“That was really nice, just learning how to hold the violin. It’s helpful to learn the basics so we can prevent them from creating bad habits,” she said.
Practice is bonding time for Sue and her kids, including her two-year-old daughter Hana who enjoys humming along to the music.
"The little ones really benefit from listening in."

Set specific goals
Josh’s Suzuki instructor Catherine Michelsen created a chart which outlines goals for the week, said Sue.
The instructor notes things she wants him to do, and Sue take notes during lessons to keep track of what new things he went over and what he should practice. She keeps the chart on Josh's bedroom door so he can check it himself and stay on track.

Make it fun
Josh practices while younger sister Hana
pretends to play along.
“I don’t want to burn him out from practice early, so we try to keep it fun,” said Sue, who plays lots of games to encourage practice.
One game she plays with Josh is a point system. If he loses his concentration, mom gets a point. Then she takes a turn on the violin and gives Josh a chance to win a point.
“Another thing we do is a coloring chart,” she said. She created a pyramid, and for every practice, he colors in a piece of the pyramid. “When he fills in all the pieces of the pyramid, he gets a treat.”

She and other Suzuki parents are constantly exchanging ideas.
"You just have to see what works best for your child," she said.

Be patient
While getting your kids to practice may be frustrating, staying patient and consistent helps kids achieve the long-term success and benefits of music education.
Sue says Josh’s teacher truly exemplifies that.
“Catherine’s so good with the kids. She really represents Suzuki teaching, that’s just who she is,” said Sue. “It’s all about teaching them through a nurturing environment. It’s all about kindness.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tots and Tunes now offered Saturday mornings

The Patel Conservatory in Tampa has added a new section of our preschool music class on Saturday mornings.

Tots and Tunes is a fun, interactive class for toddlers and parents to enjoy exploring music and movement together.

Tots and Tunes is offered:

Tuesdays - 10:30 to 11:15 a.m.
Thursdays - 4:15 to 5 p.m.
Saturdays - 10 to 10:45 a.m.

The new Saturday class is immediately after the Creative Drama class (from 9 to 10 a.m.), an introductory theater class for preschoolers. Students who register for both Saturday morning preschool classes will receive a 10% discount on tuition for both classes.

The Patel Conservatory offers a variety of music programs for toddlers through adults, including Suzuki violin, private piano lessons, voice and more. For more information about our music programs, click here, or call 813-222-1002.

Registration is available online, or by phone.

Zumba now offered at the Conservatory

Ready to shake up your workout?

The Patel Conservatory announces the addition of Zumba® to our schedule of community dance classes!

“I took Zumba for three years and lost 40 pounds,” said instructor Ciarra Joyner.

Joyner will be teaching this popular fitness class at the Conservatory on Mondays from 7:15 to 8:15 p.m.

Joyner is the disciplinarian at the University of Tampa (UT), where she attended as an undergraduate and minored in dance. She’s been teaching Zumba for more than three years in the Tampa area, including at UT.

“You can burn up to 1000 calories per class depending on how hard you work,” she said. “Any fitness level can do it, any age. You don’t have to be able to dance.”

The class incorporates Latin rhythms and movement in a fun, easy-to-follow dance workout that includes cardio and resistance training to tone and strengthen the body.

This fast-paced, high-energy workout is the perfect stress reliever and time-out for today’s busy moms and professionals.

“Parents can do this while their kids are in class (at the Conservatory), so it’s convenient,” said Joyner.

Pay monthly, yearly or by the class. It’s your choice!

To find out more information or register online, click here, or call 813-222-1002.

Monday, September 10, 2012

NGB dancers perform in Miami

Olivia Gusti, Jackson Kettell, Sasha Alvarez, Hannah Stanford,
Kemper Cassada, 
Landon Harris, Tanner Bleck 

Congratulations to Patel Conservatory's Next Generation Ballet dancers who recently had the privilege to perform at the XVII Annual International Ballet Festival of Miami.

The festival is a world–wide gathering of dance and a cultural exchange that featured performances from young dancers who were International Medal Winners.

As YAGP Medal winners, NGB dancers were invited to perform on Friday, Sept. 7 at the Lehman Theater at Miami Dade College.

It was a fantastic experience for our dancers!

Congratulations to scholarship contest winners

Thank you to everyone who participated in our summer scholarship contest! Participants were asked to submit a two-minute performance video for a chance to win a scholarship for classes in dance, music or theater.

Congratulations to the following finalists who qualified for full or partial scholarships!

Patricia Gutham
Zoe Gallagher
Allegra Beachy

Jessica Jacobs
Kassidy Gavigan
Katherine Larson
Robyn Lukaszewski
Makenna  Shaikh
Analisa Benitez

Taliyah Marullo

The contest ran from July through August. Scholarship recipients are eligible for participation in designated classes as decided by Patel Conservatory instructors.

It’s not too late to get involved!
Want to learn to sing, dance or play an instrument? The Patel Conservatory in Tampa offers open enrollment in more than 100 classes in dance, music and theater for kids as young as two years old through adults. You're never too old or young to try something new!

Classes range from voice lessons and choir to on-camera acting classes, musical theater, community dance classes, Rock School, orchestra and more!

For more information, please visit our website, view our online brochure or call our registrar’s office at 813-222-1002.

Spotlight on Matt Weihmuller

Patel Conservatory music instructor Matt Weihmuller has had his share of challenges.

Although he’s been blind since birth, Weihmuller has never let his disability hold him back or keep him from pursuing a career in music.

“You get out of life what you put into it,” said Weihmuller, who teaches private saxophone lessons at the Conservatory.

Weihmuller is one of many new private lesson instructors as our music program has been growing exponentially in the past several months. The Patel Conservatory now has nearly 100 instrumental and voice private lesson students!

Weihmuller didn’t start out with the goal of becoming a musician. “I thought I’d go to college for business, but decided I couldn’t stop playing music.”

He grew up in Carrollwood and started taking piano lessons when he was about 10 years old. He played clarinet in middle school until his band teacher recommended he take up the saxophone.

While his classmates relied on sight reading to learn new pieces of music, Weihmuller had to rely on his ears.

Matt with his guide dog, Daisy, who goes with him almost
everywhere, except his private music lessons. "I would
literally be playing right in her ear." But Daisy does come
to most of Matt's performances.
“It was a daily struggle. Braille music is almost impossible to get,” said Weihmuller. His mother learned how to read music in braille and would sometimes transcribe his music for him.

In addition to the challenge of reading music, school work presented its obstacles. After school, he’d have to meet with a vision teacher who helped translate his assignments. That meant a lot of pre-planning on his part.

“You turn your disadvantage into an advantage. Because I had to plan, I was a much better student,” he said.

As a jazz sax player at Blake High School, Weihmuller was inspired when he saw Marcus Roberts perform in concert. Roberts is a renowned blind pianist who has toured with Winton Marsalis.

“Roberts was teaching at Florida State, so I decided I wanted to go there. I wanted to study jazz improv,” said Weihmuller, who went on to complete his bachelor’s and master’s in music performance at Florida State University.

In college, things got more difficult. He no longer had a vision teacher to help him through the process. He couldn’t access email or go on the internet, on which instructors relied heavily.

He had to teach himself how to use new computer programs for the blind. “I went from not doing anything on the computer to now, I do most of my stuff on the computer.”

Now he can surf the net, read email and, there’s even a new program that will allow him to scan pieces of music into the computer and it translates it to braille.

But even with new technology, teaching music can sometimes present new issues that Weihmuller has had to overcome.

“I can show (the student) everything I’m doing on the instrument, but I can’t look at someone’s position... or tell if he’s holding his fingers correctly,” said Weihmuller.

Without his sight to assess a student’s posture and breathing, he has to be creative in his approach. He may place his hands on the student’s to make sure his fingers are aligned properly, but mostly Weihmuller relies on the sound of the music.

“I think my ear is a little more developed, so I have that advantage.”

Perhaps the most important lesson he imparts to his students is what his parents and teachers have taught him, that nothing worth doing comes easy.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate. I got to study with some great teachers. And I grew up with a strong family background, that’s helped out a lot,” said Weihmuller. “I’ve had to work twice as hard. But I was able to impress upon my teachers that I was a really hard worker.

“If you really want to do it, you’ll find a way.”

Weihmuller currently plays in a band called UNRB. They play a mix of funk, blues and rock and even had one of their songs played on Tampa's 97X radio.

In addition to private lessons, Weihmuller will soon be coaching a new jazz quartet at the Conservatory.

In addition to private lessons in a variety of instruments including saxophone, piano, guitar, violin and more, the Patel Conservatory has an array of music programs from voice lessons and choir to Rock School. For more information, please call 813-222-1002.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

New instructors for hip hop dance classes

The Patel Conservatory welcomes two new hip hop instructors this fall, Marcus Borders and Lisa Warren.

Lisa taught the adult hip hop class last year at the Patel Conservatory and this year, she’ll be taking over our Hip Hop Show Team, for grades 4 to 12.

An ethnic dancer specializing in such styles as West African Ballet and Brazilian, Lisa studied hip hop at the Broadway Dance Center in New York. A Tampa native, she has choreographed for local dance studios and summer camps, and local shows including The Chocolate Nutcracker at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.

“This year is going to be amazing,” said Lisa about teaching the Hip Hop Show Team at the Conservatory. “My ultimate goal is to cultivate each child in a way that they will know their inner style. I just want them to feel confident, and know that anything they want to achieve, it will happen. It just takes hard work and persistence.”

Marcus Borders, photo courtesy of
VYB Dance Company.
Marcus Borders will be teaching hip hop classes at the Patel Conservatory for grades one through adult.

Marcus is a Tampa native who began dancing when he was eleven years old. He studied dance at Blake High School and went on to tour with Astro/Genesis Records for three years and performed for gospel composer Carlton Burgess and with VYB Dance Company. He also choreographed a show for gospel artists Cepeda McKay and No Limits, which was performed on the Bobby Jones Gospel show on B.E.T.

“I want my students to understand the meaning of hip hop,” said Marcus. “I’m hoping to take the hip hop classes to another level this year.”

He’s taught dance at Blake High School and choreographed shows for the University of Tampa. He’s performed in and choreographed for many local performances including The Chocolate Nutcracker, and performed with 

For more information or to register for hip hop dance classes or any of our community dance classes, please call 813-222-1002.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Local thespians featured on PBS documentary

Florida thespians Joshua Grosso and Samantha Schneider-Behen are among 60 competitors featured on the upcoming PBS special Broadway or Bust.

As winners of the Straz Center’s Broadway Star of the Future Award, Joshua and Samantha went to New York City in June to compete in the National High School Musical Awards.

The PBS documentary series followed the competition from the regionals to the rigorous final competition in New York. More than 50,000 high school thespians competed in regionals across the country. Joshua and Samantha were among the top 60 most talented performers who qualified to compete in New York.

The series shows their journey as they sweat through an intense week of rehearsals, coaching sessions and performances. Follow along to the final awards ceremony, known as “The Jimmy Awards,” that took place in the famed Minskoff Theatre on Broadway.

Spoiler alert: if you follow our blog, you know already know that Joshua took home the coveted Jimmy Award for best actor.

Joshua, of Plantation, now attends Carnegie Mellon University and Samantha, of Riverview, is now a senior at Blake High School.

You can share their Broadway experience and watch how it all unfolded in the three-week PBS series airing on WEDU Sunday nights at 8 p.m. Sept. 9 - 23, 2012.

[Note: Each year, the Straz Center presents the Broadway Star of the Future Award to one male actor and one female actor in recognition of their outstanding performance in a musical theater production. Winners are selected through the Florida State Thespian Competition, held annually at the Straz Center, and have the opportunity to represent the state of Florida and the Straz Center at The National High School Musical Theater Awards.]