Saturday, May 25, 2013

Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Spotlight Awards!

Cake by Patel Conservatory parent volunteer Gail Schultz
Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Spotlight Awards at the Patel Conservatory!

The recipients of this year’s Spotlight Awards went to:

Jackson Kettell and Molly Hellier for Outstanding Achievement in Dance.

Parker Wilkson and Abigale Pfingsten for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

Lucas Coura and Sabrina Smith for Outstanding Achievement in Theater.


Volunteer of the year awards were also given to:

Tangi Falber for Theater
Michele de Lucca-Lowrey for Music
Tammy Correa for Dance

Following the awards show, approximately 600 students, family members, supporters, faculty and staff enjoyed music, food and fellowship in the Silbiger lobby of Carol Morsani Hall and outside overlooking the river.

The dance floor outside under the tent was full all evening thanks to music by DJ Rob with Ultimate Entertainment.

Students and family and friends celebrate with a night of dancing out by the river.

A Patel Conservatory dance student, who homeschools for academics, commented, "Thank you so much for this. I've never been to a school dance before. This is so much fun."

For many of our students, the Conservatory is both their school and their second home. They forego many traditional school-age experiences in exchange for classes, rehearsals and productions. The evening was a great way for them to celebrate the end of the school year together with family and friends.

The celebration created memories that will last a lifetime.

Bravo to the teachers who help all of our students of all ages live out their dreams every day in our classrooms and on our stages!

Many thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, and the vast efforts of our volunteers who truly touched lives through your support!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Metropolitan Ministries kids clowning around





There was plenty of fanfare under the Big Top in TECO Theater last week.

Students from the Metropolitan Ministries Partnership School put on a fantastic circus themed showcase for their end-of-the-year performance!

Through our community partnership, Patel Conservatory instructors taught weekly classes at the school throughout the year. At their recent showcase, the students got to show off what they learned for families and friends.

Students and families, and Conservatory and Metropolitan Ministries staff enjoyed the performance immensely!









Monday, May 20, 2013

Playback Theatre training comes to Patel Conservatory



Theater for social change.

If you’ve never heard of this term, it means using theater as a way to empower a community, listen to its concerns and encourage change.

It can be anything from kids role playing bullying scenarios in a school to patients in an addiction treatment center participating in a theater workshop. It’s interactive theater that encourages audience participation as a way to work through issues, cope and solve problems.

That’s Playback Theatre.

Playback Theatre is an original form of improvisational theatre in which audience or group members tell stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot.

Playback Theatre is used in over 50 countries in schools, organizations, treatment centers, conferences and more to bring group concerns to the surface and stimulate dialogue among participants.

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center will host a Playback Theatre core training workshop in June, taught by Playback Theatre Practitioner Jen Kristel of Burlington, Ver.

The goal is to bring a Playback Theatre chapter to Tampa Bay.

The intensive four-day workshop will teach participants the basics of Playback Theatre and how it works. Students will have the opportunity to practice being both the actors and the audience members. All participants will tell and enact stories together in the spirit of fun and fellowship.

The course is designed for all actors, mental health professionals and students, education professionals and anyone interested in theater for social change.

Participants learn performance and improvisational skills, and keen listening and social skills. Playback Theatre requires depth, sensitivity and the ability to react to and give back to the audience.

The workshop will be Fri., Jun. 7 through Mon., Jun. 10 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Housing options are available for those outside the Tampa Bay area.

Announcing the Spotlight Awards nominees for Dance

The Patel Conservatory’s Spotlight Awards celebrates the spirit of learning by recognizing students who go above and beyond in their commitment to the performing arts.

Spotlight finalists are nominated by their instructors for their passion, dedication and positive attitude. Award winners will be announced at the Spotlight Awards on Thurs., May 23, 2013. The evening includes the awards show at 6:30 p.m. followed by a dinner and dancing 8 p.m.

The following students were nominated for Outstanding Student Achievement in the area of Dance:



John Hewitt

John Hewitt, 14, of Silver Spring, Md., joined the Patel Conservatory last fall. In January, he placed second in junior men's classical dance at the Tampa Regionals of the Youth America Grand Prix competition. This summer, he will be attend summer intensives with the School of American Ballet and the Carreño Dance Festival on full tuition scholarships.









Molly Hellier




Molly Hellier, 18, of St. Petersburg, is a senior in the International Baccalaureate program at St. Petersburg High School. She has been dancing at the Patel Conservatory since she was in the sixth grade. She’d like to thank Peter Stark, Ivonne Lemus and Ashley Hilton for all their support! She will continue to dance while attending Duke in the fall.







Jackson Kettell



Jackson Kettell, 19, of Tampa, has been dancing since he was three years old. A graduate of the dance program at Blake High School, he joined Next Generation Ballet three years ago and is appreciative of the training he has received. Jackson will attend Jacksonville University on a full dance scholarship this fall.








Courtney Gunsteens


Courtney Gunsteens, 14, of Land O' Lakes, started taking ballet three years ago. Her passion for the artistic expression led her to the Next Generation Ballet trainee program. Her goal is to be a dancer with a professional ballet company.









Banks Cooney


Banks Cooney, 17, of Birmingham, Ala., performed with the Alabama Ballet with the corps de ballet since 2009. She performed in Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Coppelia. She has trained with the Houston Ballet, the Chautauqua Institution in New York, and American Ballet Theatre, among others. Banks is currently an apprentice with Next Generation Ballet.








Sasha Alvarez



Sasha Alvarez, 17, is a senior at Blake High School and a New Artist for Next Generation Ballet at the Patel Conservatory. She began her classical ballet training under Elsa Pardo at the Elsa Pardo Dance Center in Tampa at the age of seven. She will attend Point Park University in Pittsburgh, Penn. in the fall on a full dance scholarship.








Hannah Barr



Hannah Barr, 17, of Tampa, has loved to dance since she was five years old. Along with ballet and contemporary, she has studied jazz, tap, hip hop and acrobatics. She has thoroughly loved and is thankful for her intensive ballet training at the Patel Conservatory for the past two years. A senior at Blake High School, Hannah will attend Fordham University in New York on scholarship and pursue a BFA in dance with the Alvin Ailey School.






Emily Muscaro



Emily Louise Muscaro, 13, of Tampa, has been taking ballet at the Patel Conservatory since she was seven years old. Ballet is Emily's greatest passion and she can't imagine life without it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

National Jimmy Award winner to perform at the Spotlight Awards

The Patel Conservatory is pleased to announce a special guest for this year’s Spotlight Awards.

Joshua Grosso
Joshua Grosso, winner of the national 2012 Jimmy Award for best actor, will perform at next week’s Spotlight Awards.

Last year, Grosso represented the Straz Center, and the state of Florida, at the National High School Musical Theater Awards in New York City.

More than 50,000 high school thespians competed in regionals across the country. Grosso, of Plantation, Fla., earned a spot among the top 60 most talented performers who qualified to compete in New York through the Straz Center's Broadway Star of the Future Award.

The prestigious New York competition was featured last year in a PBS documentary called Broadway or Bust, which aired recently in the Tampa area.

As the Jimmy winner, Grosso received a $10,000 scholarship. He is currently a sophomore studying musical theater at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama.

Don’t miss your opportunity to see this award-winning performer and rising Broadway star at the third annual Spotlight Awards, which will be Thurs., May 23, 2013 at 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $20 through May 16. For tickets, please call 813-229-STAR (7827) or visit www.strazcenter.org or in person at our box office.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Announcing the Spotlight Awards nominees for Theater

The Patel Conservatory’s Spotlight Awards celebrates the spirit of learning by recognizing students who go above and beyond in their commitment to the performing arts.

Spotlight finalists are nominated by their instructors for their passion, dedication and positive attitude. Award winners will be announced at the Spotlight Awards on Thurs., May 23, 2013. The evening includes the awards show at 6:30 p.m. followed by dinner and dancing at 8 p.m.

The following students were nominated for Outstanding Student Achievement in the area of Theater:




Michelle Hernandez, 17, of Dade City, is an International Baccalaureate student at Land O' Lakes High School. She has been performing for 10 years throughout the state of Florida. She has been studying at the Conservatory for the past year, and will attend Sarah Lawrence College in New York in the fall.





Sabrina Smith, 17, of Wesley Chapel, is an apprentice in the Patel Conservatory theater program. Her passion for theater started at a young age and has only grown since. Most recently, she performed in Patel Conservatory’s The Good Doctor and Kiss Me, Kate.





Lucas Coura, 19, of Riverview, has been performing since he was young. He studies dance and music at the Patel Conservatory. In the Conservatory’s theater productions, he performed as Fred in Kiss Me, Kate and the Writer in The Good Doctor. He also participated in Opera Tampa's productions as a member of the Opera Tampa Chorus.









Emily Faith Pedone, 16, began taking dance when she was three years old, including tap, jazz and hip hop. She began acting in school programs and then joined the Patel Conservatory theater program. She has performing the the Patel Conservatory theater productions of Music Man, Jr.,  Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Good doctor. she is grateful to entire staff of the Conservatory!







Isabella Belknap, 8, of Brandon, has loved to sing and dance since she was very young. She has been taking classes in dance and musical theater at the Patel Conservatory since she was five years old.




Lindsey Davis, 9, of Riverview, has always had a love of music and performing. She was in her first stage production at age six and soon began studying musical theater at the Patel Conservatory, where she immediately felt at home. She has performed in the Conservatory’s The Bear Went Over the Mountain, Beauty and the Beast, Jr., and most recently, Dig It!




Fiona Watson-Canning, 9, of Tampa, has taken dance since she was four and began her studies at the Patel Conservatory two years ago. She performed in The Bear Went Over the Mountain (Quail) and Dig It! (Lucy), and looks forward to the summer production of The Little Mermaid.







Caileigh Potter, of Tampa, has been taking dance since she was two years old.  She found her love for theater three years ago at the Patel Conservatory. Not only did the Conservatory’s theater program fuel her passion for dancing, singing and acting, it help her blossom from being shy and a little reserved to outgoing and expressive.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Announcing the Spotlight Awards nominees for Music

The Patel Conservatory’s Spotlight Awards celebrates the spirit of learning by recognizing students who go above and beyond in their commitment to the performing arts.

Spotlight finalists are nominated by their instructors for their passion, dedication and positive attitude. Award winners will be announced at the Spotlight Awards on Thurs., May 23, 2013. The evening includes the awards show at 6:30 p.m. followed by a dinner and dancing 8 p.m.

The following students were nominated for Outstanding Student Achievement in the area of Music:

Francisco Flores

Francisco Flores, 18, of Tampa, has played the upright bass and bass guitar since elementary school. He has enjoyed playing in the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra, Jazz Quartet, Rock Band and Pit Orchestra for the musical Normal. After taking a conductor course at the Conservatory, he was the only student to conduct a piece at Williams Middle School orchestra's spring concert. Frankie is also captain of his crew team. He’ll graduate from Robinson High School’s International Baccalaureate program and attend the Coast Guard Academy in the fall.





Cole Taylor



Cole Taylor, 14, of Land O’ Lakes, is a self taught musician. He began playing the saxophone three years ago and came to the Patel Conservatory looking for further instruction. He takes private saxophone lessons and is a member of the Jazz Quartet.





Abigale Pfingsten



Abigale Pfingsten, 14, of Lutz, has been taking piano lessons for seven years. She has represented the Patel Conservatory at the National Federation of Music Clubs in the Florida Chapter Convention for the past four years. She was awarded First Place at the Asheville Piano Forum in 2009. She enjoys performing at nursing homes in the Tampa Bay area every year accompanied by her brothers.







Parker Wilkson


Parker J. Wilkson, 15, of Lutz, has been playing piano since the age of three. As an accompanist, he performed in Jobsite Theater’s Gorey Stories, MAD Theatre’s Nunsense; SLHS’s Grease and Westside Story; and Patel Conservatory’s Normal, the Musical. Parker plays piano for the Conservatory’s Jazz Quartet; he plays guitar and keyboards and sings with Rock School; and trains in the private vocal arts program.  Parker performs with indie rock band Nfin8, which opened at the Gasparilla Music Festival this year.






Gabriela Barnés


Gabriela Barnés, 17, moved to MacDill Air Force Base two years ago. A senior at Robinson High School, she has been performing in choirs since she was nine years old.  She was recently in the Conservtory’s The Good Doctor, and will attend University of Tampa as a musical theater major in the fall.









Jacob Fleming


Jacob Fleming, 13, of Tampa. Jacob began writing songs and playing guitar when he was 7. He attended the Patel Conservatory's arts sampler summer camp after first grade, and today he is a three-year Rock School veteran and a member of the Junior Ensemble choir. Jacob was honored to join the children's chorus in Opera Tampa's La Boheme, and looks forward to many more years of exceptional instruction and experience at the Patel Conservatory.







Lucas Coura



Lucas Coura, 19, of Riverview, has been performing since he was young. He studies dance and music at the Patel Conservatory. In the Conservatory’s theater productions, he performed as Fred in Kiss Me, Kate and the Writer in The Good Doctor. He also participated in Opera Tampa's productions as a member of the Opera Tampa Chorus.

Next Generation Ballet presents Cinderella


This weekend, Next Generation Ballet presents Cinderella at the Straz Center.

As a timeless classic, this breathtaking ballet is the perfect show for families. But more than that, it’s your chance to see the talented dancers of Next Generation Ballet (NGB). The cast features dancers from around the country who have come to Tampa to train at the Patel Conservatory.

“[NGB] is very much like a company,” said Allenda Witzel, who moved to Tampa from Virginia last year to train with NGB.

She previously trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, then the Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington, D.C.
Allenda Witzel will play the summer fairy
in NGB's Cinderella. Photo by Paolo Galli.

“One of my former teachers recommended I study with Peter Stark,” said Allenda.

"It's been phenomenal. The instructors [at the Conservatory] care a lot for their students, and I really appreciate that."

As an NGB trainee, she dances full-time, five days a week. For academics, she takes classes online, including some Harvard University courses. At only 15, she’s already earned nearly 20 college credits.

“She has the same professors as the students sitting in class in Boston,” said Allenda’s mother Michelle Witzel.

The young dancer has had some amazing opportunities, including a summer intensive at Princess Grace Academy of Monaco.

"It was an eye opening experience working with dancers from all over the world...It was inspiring to get to a certain level in my technique and artistry."

This summer, she’ll attend summer intensives at the San Francisco Ballet School and at the Vaganova Ballet Academy's program in Mikkeli, Finland.

In Cinderella, Allenda plays the role of the summer fairy. “It’s really fun getting to rehearse a full-length ballet and work on the choreography...it's difficult choreography, but I like that it's difficult.”

The work pays off when these dancers sail through the air and make it look so effortless!

Don’t miss Cinderella this Sunday, May 19,  2013 at 1 and 6 p.m. For tickets, call 813.229.STAR (7827) or online at strazcenter.org.