Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spotlight on Paul Stoddart

Paul Stoddart, left, jams at a Rock School Blowout concert,
Musician Paul Stoddart describes himself as a gun for hire. 

As the guitarist for a Frank Sinatra cover band, Andy Stefano and the Summit Orchestra, Stoddart has played at charity events and casino nights. He’s also freelanced for theater productions, including American Stage’s Rocky Horror Show. He’s played at bars on weekend nights and at churches on Sundays. He plays at recording studios when vocalists need a musician, and he’s been teaching private lessons and Rock School bands for years.

An unassuming guy, Stoddart is usually in the background, letting the front man, vocalist, performer or student have the spotlight, and he’s good with that.

“I mean, really, does anyone remember who played in Frank Sinatra’s band?” said Stoddart.

As long as Stoddart can make a living doing what he loves - playing music - he’s perfectly happy.

“When most people think about touring with a band, it’s living on the road, sleeping in a van, eating really unhealthy. That never seemed like a fun time to me,” said Stoddart. “I’ve been blessed...I haven’t had to live in a van or anything.”

As part of the Tampa music scene for nearly 13 years, Stoddart deserves his own spotlight. He’s been a Patel Conservatory Rock School instructor since its early days in 2005, before the Patel Conservatory was even built. And he's helped grow the program and keep it going strong.

Rock School helps musicians put into practice what they learn in private lessons. Students sign up to be in a band, and bands are formed according to age and skill level. They rehearse weekly under the direction of Stoddart and other instructors, and perform in a final Rock School Blowout concert. 

“Rock School teaches musicians how to interact with other members of a band, and how you need to listen to other people playing,” said Stoddart, who also plays keyboard, bass, banjo and even the ukelele.

He manages to help players of various skill levels on an array of instruments come together harmoniously to perform favorite rock music from the classics to contemporary.

This season’s Rock School program features 12 bands performing in two free Blowout concerts on April 6.

A native of Chicago, Stoddart holds a songwriting degree from the Berklee School of Music in Boston, but his teaching career began long before college.

At the age of 14, his guitar teacher decided to go on tour with his band. He asked Stoddart to take over his 17 students, and suddenly Stoddart was teaching budding guitarists from kids to seniors. He’s been teaching ever since.
To this day, he’s often the one who learns from his students.

“You learn a lot teaching, basic things you might forget otherwise,” said Stoddart.

As a Rock School instructor, he’s excited about the recent additions to the program, such as the inclusion of vocal coaching and songwriting.

“A lot of Rock School bands have stayed together for a couple of years. We’re encouraging them to start doing some writing. So they’ll be performing some original music in the concert,” said Stoddart.

As a solo artist, he writes and records his own music, and will soon have a new CD available on his website, currently under construction. The CD will reflect his style, which is a little bit of everything, from jazz to blues to rock. Passing along his songwriting skills is just one more reason why he enjoys teaching at the Conservatory.

“I just really like working with kids. They’re all like my own children,” he said.

Catch Stoddart and all the Conservatory’s Rock School bands in concert on April 6, 2013. The two free outdoor concerts will be at the Glazer Children’s Museum at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Monday, February 25, 2013

So what is the Harlem Shake?

Harlem Shake videos are popping up on the internet like wildfire.

Patel Conservatory hip hop dance instructor Alesia Scott-Warren went on the national morning talk show Daytime this morning to set the record straight on what exactly is the Harlem Shake.

Hip hop instructor Alesia Scott-Warren, right, teaches the
original Harlem Shake to talk show hosts Cyndi Edwards
and Jerry Penacoli.
The dance started in Harlem and was made popular in the early 2000’s when featured in music videos from hip hop artists P. Diddy and G. Dep, as well as rapper Eve, said Scott-Warren.

The recent rash of videos are imitations of a video by some college guys, who dance to a 2012 song called Harlem Shake by Baauer.

Scott-Warren demonstrated the old version of the dance to Daytime hosts Cyndi Edwards and Jerry Penacoli.

The Daytime cast and crew even got into the action and put together their own version of the newer Harlem Shake trend.

The cast and crew of Daytime doing their take on the "Harlem Shake" video craze.

Catch the full segment on Daytime on Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. on WFLA Channel 8.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Flashdance cast member helps you learn How to Survive a Dance and Music Audition

Join Flashdance cast member Holly Ann Butler tonight at an audition workshop at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa.

The workshop, How to Survive a Dance and Music Audition, is last of our three-part audition workshop series.

Butler is currently on tour with Flashdance, now playing at the Straz Center through Feb. 24.

This is your chance to work with a seasoned professional whose credits include How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying on Broadway and the National Tours of Shrek the Musical and Jersey Boys.

At the upcoming workshop, you’ll learn how to pick an audition song that suits your voice, how to handle choreography for a dance audition and how to assemble an audition book. Students will then be led through a mock audition and receive feedback on their performance.

How to Survive a Dance and Music Audition
Fri., Feb. 22, 2013
Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center, Tampa
Cost: $50

To register online, click here, or for more information or to register by phone, call 813-222-1002.

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center offers classes in dance, music and theater. We are located in downtown Tampa, so please allow plenty of time to park and sign-in.

Hannah Beach to join the Hamburg Ballet

Congratulations to Next Generation Ballet (NGB) alum Hannah Beach who has recently accepted an apprentice position with the Hamburg Ballet for the fall.

Photo by Johan Persson
“I am really excited. The director, John Neumeier, is one of the best choreographers around,” said Beach, who has been taking classes at the Conservatory this week with former NGB instructors Peter Stark and Ivonne Lemus.

Beach, 17, is currently in the third year program at the Royal Ballet School (RBS) in London. She’s in town for a short break before returning to London.

“It’s so nice to come home to the family, and Mr. Peter and Ms. Ivonne. I miss them so much when I’m in classes (at RBS),” said Beach.

Beach left Next Generation Ballet at age 16 to study at RBS, where she excelled in her first year and skipped the second year of RBS’s three-year program.

Last fall, she was one of only five students chosen to perform with Royal Ballet’s professional company as part of their Corp de Ballet.

“Performing with Royal Ballet was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It’s completely changed my life,” said Beach.

She was in 21 performances of Swan Lake and 21 performances of The Nutcracker.

“It was really nerve wracking. You don’t want to mess up as a student, especially in Swan Lake....we all have to look the exact same,” said Beach.

In The Nutcracker, she got to stand out a bit more. “I was one of only eight of the Corp for the Waltz of the Flowers. It was really nice. You could definitely see me on stage.”

Of course, a demanding performance schedule takes its toll, both physically and emotionally.

“It was hard because they perform every night, but it’s worth it. Especially at the end, bowing on stage with the principal dancers,” she beamed.

Performing in The Nutcracker also meant she couldn’t come home for Christmas.

“It’s been a challenge, but Skype is very helpful,” said Felicia Beach, Hannah’s mother.

Felicia and Hannah feel that Hamburg Ballet seems like the right fit for her.

Neumeier, the company director, is internationally known for his choreography.

While many companies perform classic choreography, Hamburg Ballet exclusively performs Neumeier’s choreography, providing a rare opportunity for its dancers to be able to work with the choreographer directly.

“He has his own style. He choreographs all their ballets,” said Hannah.

Sisters Hannah, left, and Gabi, right
pursue ballet careers. Hannah will join
the Hamburg Ballet company in the
fall and Gabi will join the Royal Ballet
It’s an exciting year for many of our students. Three NGB students, including Hannah’s sister Gabi, have been accepted to RBS, and NGB new artist William Dugan will join Hannah in Germany as he joins the School of the Hamburg Ballet. Gabi will attend RBS this fall.

With two young daughters overseas this fall (Gabi is only 15), it will be a big adjustment for Felicia, an accountant, and husband John, who works for Raytheon. 

“Gabi’s leaving a year younger than her sister did, that makes me anxious...But mostly we’re very thankful that the girls are having the education from Royal Ballet, and happy they’ve been able to learn from Peter and Ivonne. There’s no way they would have gotten there without them,” said Felicia. “I’ll just have to log a lot of frequent flyer miles.”

Best of luck to both Hannah and Gabi as they embark on new adventures this fall!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Acting workshop with Andrea Caban

The Patel Conservatory in Tampa will host a workshop titled Voice for the Actor next week by guest instructor Andrea Caban.

Voice for the Actor
Mon., Feb. 25, 2013
5 to 7 p.m.
Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center
$40 per person
($10 discount w/ ticket stub to
Questions My Mother Can't Answer)
Pre-registration is required

Andrea Caban is a solo artist performing in her one-woman show, Questions My Mother Can't Answer at the Straz Center in Tampa this week. She is also a voice and dialect coach.

In her show, Caban portrays an array of characters, using various voices and accents to depict a Moroccan ballroom dancer, a prostitute, her Aunt Shirley and more.

As a dialect coach, she guides actors in finding and using their own voices, and in the process, often helps them discover a new sense of confidence and empowerment.

“Andrea so effortlessly pulls honesty out of the actor,” said Ami Sallee, Patel Conservatory theater chair. Sallee got to see Caban in action last week as she worked with students in our audition workshop.

“Every student who walked out that night was in awe of the experience,” she said.

Caban is certified in both Fitzmaurice Voicework and Knight/Thompson Speechwork and she trains other teachers in the certification programs for both.

Many Patel Conservatory theater faculty will participate in the upcoming workshop, which is geared towards helping actors become more of themselves and clear in their intentions, both in a scene and in life.

“Artists who live and work in NYC, Chicago, LA and other major cities understand the necessity and benefits of continuous training,” said Sallee.

“I hope to see more local theater professionals at Andrea’s show and in the workshop.”

The upcoming Voice for the Actor workshop is open to the public, including professional actors and students. However, space is limited and pre-registration is required.

The cost is $40, but you'll receive a $10 discount with a ticket stub to Caban's show, Questions My Mother Can't Answer, playing Feb. 21 through Mar. 3, 2013.

To register for the workshop, please call our registration office at 813-222-1002.

Monday, February 18, 2013

NGB students accepted to Royal Ballet School

Kemper Cassada, left, with Hannah Stanford
Congratulations to three Next Generation Ballet (NGB) dancers who have been accepted to the Royal Ballet School (RBS)!

Kemper Cassada, Gabi Beach and Hannah Stanford have all received offers to train at the world-renowned ballet school in London.

Cassada and Beach, both 15, have been accepted for this fall, and Stanford, 14, has already been accepted for the fall of 2014 when she’ll meet the minimum age requirement for acceptance.

“The school feeds into the Royal Ballet, one of the best companies in the world,” said Beach, who recently returned from attending two weeks of classes there. “The training is just really fantastic.”

All three NGB students received short term scholarships to the school at last year’s final Youth America Grand Prix competition in New York. Those scholarships allowed them to visit the school and participate in classes. They were each independently accepted into the RBS three-year program based on their performances during those visits.

“It wasn’t anything I was very intense,” said Cassada of his time in London.

Even though he trains five to six full days a week here at the Patel Conservatory, he said being at RBS was a different experience.

“It was more intimidating to be over there just because it’s the Royal Ballet, and you have all these great dancers, they’re absolutely incredible,” said Cassada.

Beach had a similar experience on her visit.

Gabi Beach, right, with sister Hannah.
“It was amazing. It really opens your eyes to how good people are and how much you can learn,” said Beach, whose older sister Hannah graduated from NGB to study at RBS in 2011 and was recently offered a position with the Hamburg Ballet.

The younger Beach sister said she didn’t even like to dance when she was little, but did it because her sister danced.

“I was always the kid running around. I never liked them saying, ‘you have to do it like this,’” said Gabi.

When she and her sister transferred to the Patel Conservatory in 2009, her attitude shifted.

“With all the good people here and the opportunities to dance in productions, it puts you in the state of mind that this is a professional job,” said Beach.

Cassada agrees that work ethic is a big part of his success. He’s pushed past his share of injuries, and all the ups and downs that a full-time dancer endures.

“You really have to want to do it. Some days you feel like, ‘I don’t want to work out today.’ You just have to push past it,” said Cassada. “Being able to dance at the RBS is a great honor. I just want to go there so I can further my training and get better.”

When Beach’s sister was accepted to RBS, it was a motivator for many of the students at the Conservatory.

“Her going to Royal really opened my eyes, and especially hers (she was super surprised), that we can get into the best schools...a lot of us have gotten scholarships to so many places, it shows how the Patel (Conservatory) really works to get us to the best schools and how our students are amazing and we can really make it.”

Come see Gabi Beach, Kemper Cassada and Hannah Stanford in Cinderella in May at the Straz Center. Gabi and Hannah will both play Cinderella in different performances and Kemper will play multiple roles.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Announcing our summer schedule of camps and classes

You've been asking for it. Well, the wait it over!

The Patel Conservatory summer schedule of camps and classes is now available in print and online!

Our summer schedule includes more than 50 camps and classes in dance, theater and music.

We offer dozens of camps held Monday through Friday during the day, including Introduction to Performing Arts camps, musical theater intensives, dance intensives, our popular rock star retreat and many more.

The Patel Conservatory is once again partnering with EVOS to provide a nutritious and delicious lunch option for summer campers! Lunches need to be pre-ordered and will be delivered to the Conservatory each day.

We also offer weekly classes for all ages and experience levels, in all areas of dance, theater and music, including adult dance and acting classes, guitar and piano classes, private lessons and more.

With so many options, you’re sure to find a class or summer camp that fits your needs and schedule.

Early Bird Discount!
Register early and save with the Early Bird Tuition Discount! Save 10% on select camps and classes when you register on or before April 13, 2013.
Come visit us and explore all that the Conservatory has to offer. The Patel Conservatory offers free tours every Thursday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m. RSVP is required. You can also take a tour of the Conservatory and visit our table during the Summer Splash event at Glazer Children’s Museum on April 6.

If you do not receive a brochure in the mail by Feb. 22, please call our registration office and we’ll be glad to send you one! Or, click here for an electronic copy of the summer brochure!

For more information about our summer schedule, or to register or RSVP for a tour, please call our registration office at 813-222-1002, or visit

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dig It! cast gives a preview at Children's Museum

Thanks to the members of the cast of Dig It! who gave a preview of the upcoming show at Target Tuesday at the Glazer Children’s Museum last week.

Dig It! is an educational, family-friendly show that explores the wonders of ancient civilizations. It’s the perfect show for young children to attend and experience live theater.

Students in grades two through four have been hard at work rehearsing for the performances, which will be Feb. 28 through March 8 in the TECO Theater. 

Dig It! is a magnificent way to introduce young ones to significant moments in archeological history,” said Ami Sallee, Patel Conservatory theater chair.

“The cast of young elementary students act, sing and dance around subjects that might seem dry or boring in a text book and breathe life into these ‘old bones.’ The show will be fun for the whole family."

The show is directed by Audrey Siegler and choreographed by Rodner Salgado. Music directors are Allison Novak and Kavan Gillespie.

At last week's preview, the students had a great time performing musical numbers from the show, including So Long Ago. They entertained children and families, and even let some of the kids join in the fun!

For tickets to the show, please visit

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Audition workshops feature guest artists

Actor Billy Tighe of the Broadway tour of Wicked visited the cast of
Music Man Jr. last month. Guest instructors will join us for our upcoming
audition workshop series.

Join us for the Patel Conservatory audition workshop series, starting tomorrow night, Feb. 8!

Being prepared for an audition helps alleviate much of the pressure. Knowing what to expect and having a professional attitude will go a long way in helping you feel confident and ready to perform.

Tomorrow’s workshop focuses on Professionalism and Confidence. Theater instructor Eugenie Bondurant will guide you through the process of the audition and what you need to succeed.

Bondurant is an actress and certified Meisner instructor who brought her on-camera acting program from Los Angeles to the Patel Conservatory in 2004.

She’ll review what to expect at theater, film, television and commercial auditions.
You’ll learn what to put on your resume, headshot guidelines, how-to slate, proper audition attire, audition etiquette and where to seek out auditions.

Our upcoming workshops on Feb. 15 and 22 will feature guest instructors that will help you handle Monologues and Cold Readings and Audition Songs and Dance Combinations.

Being part of the Straz Center has its perks. Our students often have the opportunity to learn from guest artists from touring productions.

The cast of Music Man Jr. recently had a visit with Billy Tighe who played Fiyero in the Broadway tour of Wicked, which came to the Straz last month.

The Feb. 15 workshop, Monologues and Cold Readings, will be taught by Andrea Caban, touring with her one-woman show Questions My Mother Can't Answer.

The guest instructor for the Feb. 22 workshop will soon be announced!

Don't miss your chance to study with the pros at these audition workshops!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spotlight on Allison Novak

Instructor Allison Novak, right, teaches music classes for ages two and up.

Think about your favorite song, and how it makes you feel. Think about how music permeates our lives every day without us thinking about it.

Whether you crank the tunes on the radio to minimize stress while you’re stuck in traffic, or if you enjoy a live Broadway or opera performance at a theater, music has a way of touching our lives, says Allison Novak, music department manager for the Patel Conservatory.

“Music is something that everybody can relate to. It’s in everyone’s lives whether they realize it or not,” said Allison.

For Allison, music has been a major part of her life as long as she can remember. She listened to big band and orchestra music with her grandpa when she was little, sang in her school and church choirs throughout her school years, and was active in musical theater productions in high school.

“Music is just something I’ve always been doing,” she said.

Allison received her Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and commercial music from Millikin University in Illinois. She has performed professionally as a member of The Orlando Chamber Singers and spent five years working at Walt Disney World where she performed daily for thousands of guests.

She is currently a member of the Opera Tampa Chorus and can be seen this weekend in Opera Tampa’s A Masked Ball, playing Feb. 7 - 10 in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center.

As the instructor of our preschool through fourth grade music classes at the Conservatory and music classes at our partnership schools, Allison says the classes encourage academic learning as well as creative thinking.

“Music lets your mind explore places and opens up new ways of thinking,” she said.

In addition to teaching kids about music terminology, pitch, rhythm and other music concepts, Allison tries to incorporate other academic subjects into her classes.

For example, in the preschool classes, she includes songs about the alphabet sounds and seasonal activities.

“In one of my older classes, we took math problems and turned them into music notes...adding quarter and half notes,” she said. “I try to do something different every week and make it fun for them.”

For more information about the Patel Conservatory’s music classes for ages two and up, please click here or call 813-222-1002.

William Dugan scores scholarship offers at Prix de Lausanne

William Dugan at the Prix de Lausanne
competition in Switzerland

Congratulations to Next Generation Ballet (NGB) New Artist William Dugan who competed last week in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne dance competition in Lausanne, Switzerland.

When William found out he’d qualified to go to Switzerland, he said, “It was quite a surreal moment, I couldn’t even fathom what just happened. But I got in! I was chosen as one of the very few Americans.”

The Prix de Lausanne offers young dancers the opportunity to compete for scholarships from some of the world’s best ballet schools. Nearly 300 young dancers auditioned and out of the 84 candidates chosen to compete, Dugan, 16, was one of only 10 selected from the United States.

William Dugan with Tamara Rojo, Artistic
Director of English National Ballet
“William’s acceptance into this competition is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Peter Stark, artistic director of NGB and the Patel Conservatory dance chair.

Last year, NGB student Hannah Bettes won the audience favorite award at the Prix de Lausanne.

“The staff couldn’t be more proud of sending students to the competition for two consecutive years,” said Stark.

Dugan also competed internationally last June in the Beijing International Dance Competition. Earlier this month, he placed third in the Tampa regional Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP), which earned him a place in the YAGP nationals this April in New York City.

The Prix de Lausanne included a week full of classes in which competitors were coached and judged.

“The judges would score us in our ballet and contemporary classes, and on our variations...It’s very nerve-wracking because the judges mark you, and they’re staring at you. And, they’re all superstar international ballet dancers!” said William.

Though William did not advance to the final round, he did receive several scholarship offers, including from The School of the Hamburg Ballet, the San Francisco Ballet School and more.

William getting ready for a day of competition!
“It was crazy because I’ve never been offered anything like this before. I’ve done YAGP competitions and never got scholarship offers. I was so happy,” said William.

William and his family have decided that he will likely attend the School of the Hamburg Ballet in the fall.

In addition to the wonderful experience of competing alongside international students and receiving multiple scholarship offers, a bonus of the week was seeing snow for the very first time.

“It was quite a moment!” said William. “It was my first time in Europe and being in Switzerland was awesome.”

Congratulations to William on his success and best of luck in his future!