Thursday, January 31, 2013

Three things all actors should know about auditions

Actor Karen Elliott, who plays Mary
Theresa in the Broadway tour of Sister Act,
offers students tips on a music audition at
the Conservatory's last audition workshop.
Want to increase your chances of landing a role at your next audition? Our upcoming workshop series can help!

The Patel Conservatory in Tampa received feedback from artistic directors in the Tampa Bay area and around Florida, and they said that three things are consistently lacking in auditions:

1. Actors need to be prepared before they walk into an audition.
Don’t lose a casting director’s confidence before you even get to perform with a bad headshot or lack of basic audition etiquette!

2. Actors must know their monologue backwards and forwards.
Do you know how to pick a monologue that shows off your strengths? You should!

3. Actors should know the basics of passing a music and dance audition.
Even if you’re not a professional singer or dancer, all performers should be comfortable enough to do both at any audition. You never know what a director or casting director will ask of you!

The Conservatory is hosting a series of audition workshops to help you gain these three valuable skills so you can present a successful and professional audition.

Take one or take all three workshops!

Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.
Feb. 8 to Feb. 22, 2013

Feb. 8, 2013
Part I: Professionalism and Confidence: résumé composition, headshot guidelines, how to slate, proper audition attire, audition etiquette and seeking out auditions.

Feb. 15, 2013
Part II: Monologues and Cold Readings: Monologue package selection, transitions, how-to do a cold reading, in-the-audition-room tips and tools for post-show interviews and callbacks.

Feb. 22, 2013
Part III: Audition Songs and Dance Combinations: Picking an audition song that suits the student’s voice, learning choreography if they are not a natural mover, assembling an audition book and mock audition.

The cost is $50 per workshop. Or, attend all three for only $135.

All participants who purchase the three-week workshop package will also receive a voucher good for one 30-minute private acting lesson! (Private lessons must be individually scheduled through the registrar’s office.)

For more information, click here, or call 813-222-1002.

For more audition tips, click here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spotlight on Frankie Flores

With colleges becoming more and more competitive these days, high school students are under a lot of pressure to perform.

Frankie Flores performs at the PCYO
fall concert.
Robinson High School senior Frankie Flores understands that pressure all too well.

As a student in the International Baccalaureate program at Robinson, he’s taking the most rigorous academic courses which require an enormous amount of homework and studying. He also has a part-time job, and he’s the varsity captain of his Tampa Training Center rowing team. He gets up at 4:30 a.m. to train on the Hillsborough River, and then rows in the afternoons as well.

Amidst all his obligations, there’s one activity in Frankie’s busy schedule that’s been both an asset for college applications, and a way to forget about all the pressure.

Music soothes the soul
When Frankie is at the Patel Conservatory, music becomes his main focus, and everything else melts away.

A longtime member of the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra, Frankie has taught himself how to tune out the world and tune in to the sounds of his instrument and his fellow ensemble members.

“The musical aspect of my life is a release for me,” said Frankie, who plays the upright bass. “When I’m at practice, I have to clear my mind of everything and just focus on the music. Nothing else in the world really matters.”

“He’s always had music as an outlet,” said Vicki Flores, Frankie’s mother, who believes in sports and music as part of her kids’ well-rounded education.

Frankie naturally took a liking to music on his own. He began with violin in school when he was in first grade. In fourth grade, he asked to play the bass. When his older sister started taking voice lessons, Frankie wanted to do that, too. As he progressed through voice lessons, he went from wanting to sing popular songs on the radio to enjoying Italian opera.

“They both (Frankie and his sister) naturally excelled in music, it’s something that calms their souls,” said Vicki. “It brings some kind of stability. No matter how chaotic things are, when he gets out of a music lesson or orchestra, he never flinches. I’m never pushing him to go.”

In addition to playing with PCYO, Frankie also plays the upright bass with the Patel Conservatory jazz quartet, and last summer, he tried his hand at bass guitar in the pit orchestra for PCYT’s rock musical Normal.

Regardless of the genre, “When I get out of practice, I feel refreshed. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Frankie.

Pushing the envelope
Whether he’s trying opera or learning a new piece for the orchestra, “anything that’s a challenge is fun,” said Frankie.

And he’s had quite a few challenges during his time here at the Conservatory, including conducting, learning original music and learning to improvise.

When he was in the eighth grade, he got an opportunity to be a student conductor, which is why he first came to the Conservatory. Though there wasn’t a conducting class on the schedule, the Conservatory found an instructor to work with him, who developed a conducting curriculum for Frankie. He had the privilege of conducting at the final concert for the orchestra at Williams Middle School, where he was a student at the time.

“He was the first and only student conductor at Williams in a concert, and that’s because of Patel,” said Vicki Flores, Frankie’s mother. “They individualized a program for was very impressive.”

These days, as a member of the advanced PCYO Composer’s Orchestra, he enjoys the challenge of learning original music from conductor Stephen P. Brown.

“I love the fact that our conductor is writing songs we’re playing. It helps you play the music as perfectly as possible,” said Frankie. “It’s different to have the actual composer in front of you and he can tell you exactly what he wants.”

In addition to learning both original and classical music with PCYO, last year, the orchestra collaborated with the Conservatory’s Rock School program for the annual Spotlight Awards show. And with the jazz quartet, Frankie really had to push the envelope and tap into his creative side by learning how to improvise.

“With orchestra, you get a piece of music, read it and play what’s on the sheet. With jazz, it’s more putting your creative mind into it,” he said.

“It’s made me more disciplined. If I go into jazz without practicing, I’d sound terrible...I have to force myself to go through the scales one by one. In the long run, it makes me sound a lot better.”

College bound
Besides being a calming and creative outlet, Frankie’s music experiences have given him an edge academically.

Being involved with music helped him learn to focus more when studying, and, it’s been a great addition to his college applications, said Frankie.

“When I started taking up music, it allowed me to focus on one thing while I’m doing it...I know how to focus now because I can zone out and make only that one thing the most important.”

An added bonus that surprised him was the interest he received from colleges during interviews.

“Not a lot of people play upright bass,” said Frankie. At a recent interview for Georgetown University, when the admissions counselor inquired about it, “she was really interested, which was surprising. Just listening to myself, I thought, that sounded impressive.”

He hadn’t realized just how much he’d accomplished, or how special his experiences were, until he had to say it to aloud to someone else.

Frankie has already been accepted to Florida State University, Southern Methodist University, University of Miami, Washington College, Fairfield University, Loyola University in New Orleans and the University of South Florida. He’s also applied at the U.S. Naval Academy, which is his top pick.

No matter where he decides to go, the experiences he’s had at the Conservatory have helped him achieve the discipline, focus and creativity to succeed in any field.

Good luck to Frankie in all his future endeavors!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Where are they now?

Where are the now? is a column on this blog featuring former students and faculty of the Patel Conservatory

Actor Andrew Wright working on a pilot
episode of the web series Strings Attached

If you’re studying at the Patel Conservatory and planning to move to New York or Los Angeles to make it big, Andrew Wright has one piece of advice for you.

“You’ll never be in a black box (theater) as nice as that TECO theater. If you move to New York or L.A., they’re not going to be as nice as that,” laughed Andrew.

He should know. A former Patel Conservatory student and teaching assistant, he’s since worked in enough local theaters in Los Angeles where he’s had to use his car as a dressing room.

Wright moved from Tampa to L.A. in 2006 to study acting at the University of Southern California, and stayed in the area to purse an acting career.

Now he gets to entertain kids every day, but not how he expected to be doing so. Wright  actually teaches kids chess and runs a local branch of Parker-Anderson Enrichment, an after-school program.

Working as a teaching assistant for Eugenie Bondurant’s on-camera acting camps years ago, the teaching seed had been planted without Wright even knowing it.

After a few years of pursuing acting, getting work sporadically, he realized he was having more fun at his side job teaching kids chess.

“I use narrative and teaching skills I learned at the Patel Conservatory every day,” said Wright. “Kids will not naturally want to learn about chess. You have to come at it in a different way, and turn your lesson into almost a stand up routine.”

Wright also performs regularly with Berkeley Groundworks, a playwriting group. He recently performed in Harry and the Thief at the Skylight Theatre in L.A., and will perform with Berkeley Groundworks in June.

“I’m not a big movie star or on a TV show, but I teach and I get to act for fun. It’s a nice balance,” said Wright. “Patel really set me on the path to where I am now - in a job I really like.”

So for all our students at the Conservatory, enjoy the fabulous facilities we have right here in Tampa!

For more information about our summer theater apprentice program, please click here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Call for scores

The Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra (PCYO) launches its 2013 Composer Initiative. Composers are invited to submit their scores for consideration, feedback and possible performance and recording.

Click here for specific program and entry requirements.

The Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra has provided excellence in music training in the Tampa Bay area since 1982, and includes the Composer's Orchestra, for advanced string, woodwind, brass and percussion players, and the Intermezzo Orchestra for intermediate violin, viola, cello and bass players.

PCYO performs an array of music from classical masterpieces to original compositions.

The 2013 Composer Initiative offers composers the opportunity to hear their own masterpieces come to life, and offers our students the chance to learn new music.

Chamber orchestra scores should be between 6 and 12 minutes in length, not including breaks between movements or sections, and should be accompanied by a link to an audio or video rendition.

Six compositions will receive detailed feedback from PCYO's award winning Principal Conductor, Stephen P. Brown, and three will be selected for public performance and non-commercial recording.

The Patel Conservatory Composers' Orchestra will perform up to three scores in their Spring 2013 Concert, which will be recorded and possibly filmed live.

There are no entry fees for the Composer Initiative.

Submissions, including both score and link to audio or video, must be received together no later than 12 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 15th, 2013.

Please review submission requirements for full program details before submitting scores.

Musicians interested in PCYO should call our music department for placement in the ensemble that best suits their skill levels.

For more information, please call 813-222-1002, or email

Monday, January 21, 2013

NGB dancers qualify for YAGP finals

Hannah Stanford, 15, performed the
variation from Don Quixote for the
YAGP Tampa regional competition.
Congratulations to the Next Generation Ballet dancers who qualified for the Youth American Grand Prix (YAGP) final competition!

The following dancers qualified to advance to the finals based on their performances at the YAGP 2013 Tampa regional competition recently held at the Straz Center:

Olivia Gusti
Hannah Stanford
Kemper Cassada
John Hewitt
Tanner Bleck
Ethan Fuller
Colin Fuller
Gabi Beach
Chandler Hammond
William Dugan

The YAGP finals will be in New York City, April 12 though April 16, 2013.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Veterans Choir shares their experience with students

Change is possible.

Members of the New Directions Veterans Choir perform at St. Peter Claver
Catholic School. From left, Danny Tucker, Bobby Hanna,
George Hill, John Hill and Carleton Griffin.
That was the message George Hill wanted to get across as he spoke to students at St. Peter Claver Catholic School.

A member of the New Directions Veterans Choir, Hill performed and spoke to the students at the school as part of a Patel Conservatory Community outreach.

The choir is comprised of men and women who have served in the U.S. military. In addition to their military service, the members of the New Directions Veterans Choir share something else in common. When they returned home following their service, each of them became homeless.

The name of their a cappella singing group was inspired by the New Directions program for homeless veterans in Los Angeles, said Hill, the group’s founder.

“The program helps you get camaraderie and structure back in your life,” said Hill. “After coming from such an unstructured journey, I needed that structure.”

Hill formed the choir more than 14 years ago along with other members from the program, which helped them get their lives back on track.

Now he enjoys bringing that message, that change is possible and they are living proof, to veterans, homeless, students and audiences throughout the country.

The choir has performed for NBC's America's Got Talent and have been featured on the NBC Nightly News and E!.

They performed at the Straz Center over the weekend, and performed for some of our Patel Conservatory community partners, including St. Peter Claver, Metropolitan Ministries and the Bay Pines Veterans Hospital.

“More than singing together, we’re friends,” said Hill, referring to fellow choir members at the outreach event at St. Peter Claver.

The group sang their rendition of Lean on Me as a reminder that there is help available for people who need it.

Whether you find a friend, a teacher or a family member, Hill said to the students, “Don’t go through your problems alone.”

Thanks to the members of New Directions Veterans Choir for sharing their story and their talents with our community partners!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Preschool classes at the Patel Conservatory

Help develop your child's imagination, social skills and creativity with preschool classes at the Patel Conservatory!

Introducing your little one to the performing arts at a young age sets the stage for a lifetime of learning.

Whether they’re banging on a drum or acting out a story, exploring music and movement, helps kids develop language, coordination and critical thinking skills. Some indications even show that students who study the arts are more successful on standardized tests such as the SAT. (see more info here)

At the Patel Conservatory, we offer classes for kids as young as two years old.

With more than 100 classes in dance, music and theater, you can make arts education a fun part of your child’s life and teach them lessons that last a lifetime!


Ages 2 and 3
Tuesdays, 10:30 - 11:15 a.m.
Thursdays, 4:15 - 5 p.m.
Saturdays, 10 - 10:45 a.m.
Children partner with an adult (parent or guardian) to strengthen their bond through musical experiences that lay a foundation for all future learning. Class activities include group singing, musical development, exercises to develop large and fine motor skills, creative movement and group games.

Ages 3 and up
Call to schedule times
A parent-child program that includes both a weekly private lesson and weekly group lesson. This violin program is based on the Japanese violin teacher Shinichi Suzuki's beliefs that every child has talent, talent is developed rather than inborn, and with a supportive parent and a good, nurturing teacher every child can learn to play an instrument well.

Pre-K4 - Pre-K5
Tuesdays, 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Children develop their musical skills through singing exercises and instrumental activities. This class focuses on nurturing each student’s musical development to ensure readiness for future musical experiences. This class prepares students to enter KidSong and beginning instrumental music instruction.

Grades K - 2
Wednesdays, 4 - 5 p.m.
In this group singing class, children continue their development of the basics of music through song. Students learn pitch, rhythm, harmony and good singing through the study and performance of music that is appropriate for their age. This class helps to set the stage for a lifetime of singing and music enjoyment and prepares the students to move into choral and solo singing.

Pre-K3 to Pre-K4
Mondays, 4 to 5 p.m.
Saturdays, 9 to 10 a.m.
K - 1
Tuesdays, 4 to 5 p.m.
Saturdays, 10 to 11 a.m.
Children are introduced to the theatrical world of storytelling through activities that include the visual arts, music and imagination to interpret classic stories and create their own dramatic scenes and plays.

With our young children’s dance classes, children are introduced to structured movement and the demands of serious ballet study. Each level is designed to challenge students within the context of their increasing physical, emotional and cognitive development. Formal barre work is introduced as the students mature, typically during the Primary level.

Thursdays, 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.
Saturdays, 9 to 9:45 a.m.
Pre-K4 to Kindergarten
Wednesdays, 3:45 to 4:45 p.m.
Saturdays, 9 to 10 a.m.
Saturdays, 10:45 to 11:45 a.m.

Tuesdays, 5:15 to 6 p.m.
Introduces young children to the basic steps and rhythms of tap dance. Students are placed by age and put steps together in combinations they find both challenging and fun.

For more information, or to register, please call 813-222-1002 or visit

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Conservatory students meet ballet superstars

Maria Kochetkova of San Francisco, performed
in the Don Quixote Grand Pas de Deux
Photo by Erik Thomasson
Patel Conservatory students enjoyed meeting their dance idols after Saturday evening’s performance of Ballet’s Greatest Hits! at the Straz Center.

The sold-out show featured excerpts from well-known classical ballets performed by principal dancers from some of the most prestigious dance companies in the world.

It's hard to describe the feats of these dancers - the unending pirouettes, the enormous leaps, the graceful lifts - each piece equally as breathtaking.

From the exciting, fast-paced Flames of Paris performed by Daniel Ulbricht and Ashley Bouder of the New York City Ballet, to the lyrical and beautiful Giselle and Swan Lake excerpts, to the exquisite Don Quixote grand finale, the show was truly a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Afterwards, audience members got the opportunity to chat and take pictures with the performers at a Meet and Greet at Maestro’s. It was an inspirational evening, especially for our Next Generation Ballet dancers, who may someday follow in the footsteps of these ballet superstars!

Here’s a few highlights from the event...

Stars of Ballet's Greatest Hits sign ballet shoes for Patel
Conservatory students.
Conservatory students with Daniel
Ulbricht (right), of the New York
City Ballet, who had a line for autographs
the entire evening.
Next Generation Ballet dancers pose with Marcelo Gomes (center) of the
American Ballet Theatre.
Matthew Golding (second from left), of the Dutch National
Ballet, with Conservatory students.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dance class of the month: Ballet

Stay in shape and awaken your artistic sensibilities with the Open Ballet Classes at the Patel Conservatory.

Whether you’re returning to ballet after a hiatus or trying it for the first time, you’ll find the welcoming studios of the Conservatory a relaxing break from your busy week.

Challenge your body, work on core muscles and posture, and gain strength and flexibility.

The Conservatory offers beginner and intermediate classes for students of all ages.

“I have some beginners and I have dancers with experience. They all benefit from the class,” said Svetlana Datseva, who teaches the Saturday Beginning Ballet class.

“It never hurts for experienced dancers to go back (to the basics). Even with professional dancers, it’s always a good thing to do to refresh the mind and the muscles,” she said.

Ballet classes are perfect for invigorating the mind, body and spirit.

“Ballet awakens all the feelings. Because we’re using classical music, and connecting music with movement...It really awakens every muscle,” said Datseva.

At the Patel Conservatory, you're not just taking a ballet class, you're joining a caring community of artists who enjoy the many perks of being part of the exciting Straz Center.

We look forward to seeing you at any of the following ballet classes:

Beginning Ballet
Mondays, 7:15 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.
Instructor Claire Olson
Saturdays, 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
Instructor, Svetlana Datseva

Learn the fundamental concepts of ballet and basic vocabulary. Students work on exercises both at the barre and in the center of the studio. Recommended for students who would like to try ballet for the first time and those who are returning to ballet class after a hiatus.

Intermediate Ballet
Thursdays, 6 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.
Instructor, Claire Olson

For the experienced student who is technically prepared to take ballet at a more skilled level. Recommended for those who have studied ballet consistently for a few years. Instructor approval is required.

$85.75 per month
Attend any of our Open Dance Classes on a drop-in basis with our Class Cards.

For more information, or to register, please call 813-222-1002, or visit