Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spotlight on Aaron Phillips

Aaron Phillips thought he knew Shakespeare. That is, until he took the summer theater intensive last year with instructor Giles Davies.

Cast members of The Tempest, Aaron Phillips, right, and Lorenzo Tonelli 
“I didn’t understand how beautiful and complex Shakespeare is until I took that class,” said Aaron, 18, of Apollo Beach.

Aaron first learned about the Patel Conservatory when he came to the Straz Center for the Florida State Thespian Festival last year.

A student at Lennard High School in Ruskin, he was amazed when he came to the Straz Center for the festival.

“I thought, ‘What is this huge place with all these beautiful theaters?’ I didn’t know it existed,” said Aaron.

He was ecstatic to learn there was a place for him to continue taking theater classes after high school.

Having competed at the festival with a Shakespeare monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he took the Midsummer theater intensive at the Conservatory to learn a bit more about Shakespeare.

“I loved my instructor [Giles Davies]...he is a Shakespearean genius,” said Aaron. "I realized I would try to say the words, but I never understood what that meant. It's deeper than just the words." 

He says Davies also taught him how to be more open-minded.

“I was semi self-conscious before, and that really holds an actor back. [Giles] has taken that self-conciousness away from me... I’ve let go of that nervous energy.”

This summer, Aaron plays the role of Sebastian in the upcoming Patel Conservatory Theater production of The Tempest.

The production will be the culmination of this summer's three-week theater intensive, also taught by Davies.

“It’s been astounding to me, to see the growth not only in myself but also my cast mates. We’ve gotten 100 percent better and we’ve only been here a week,” said Phillips.

The Tempest is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skillful manipulation.

Aaron enjoys playing the role of a ‘bad guy’ as a contrast to the roles he’s had in the past. “My cast mates give me really great energy.”

Come check out this Patel Conservatory theater production, and perhaps you, too, will discover that you didn’t know Shakespeare quite like you thought you did.

“It’s a romance, it’s a comedy, it’s dramatic, it’s everything,” said Aaron.

The Tempest will be Aug. 8 and 9, 2013 at 7 p.m. in TECO Theater. Click here for tickets.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Music auditions for fall: vocal and instrumental ensembles

The Patel Conservatory will have auditions for its 2013/2014 music programs.

Upcoming auditions will be for our Vocal Arts, Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra, Jazz Ensembles and Rock School programs on the following days:

Rock School
Aug. 13 and 14, 5 to 8 p.m.
Sept. 4, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Our popular Rock School program places students in bands according to age and ability level. Instrument and cords are required (drum set, amps and keyboards provided). Vocalists without an instrument are invited to audition.

Aug. 13 and 14, 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Aug. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Conservatory’s Vocal Arts programs include the Junior and Senior Choirs and advanced vocal Ensembles. Students should prepare a short song or excerpt (16 measures or about 30 seconds) to sing, preferably with sheet music. An accompanist will be provided.

Fundamentals of Jazz and Jazz Combo
Aug. 13 and 14, 6 to 7 p.m.

This class provides an opportunity for intermediate level students, grade 7-college, of brass, woodwind and rhythm section instruments to explore the fundamentals of the jazz experience, including improvisation and ensemble playing.

Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra (PCYO):
Aug. 13 and 14, 5:30 - 7 p.m.
Our youth orchestra features the Patel Conservatory Chamber Orchestra (PCCO) for advanced string, woodwind, brass and percussion players, the Intermezzo String Orchestra for intermediate violin, viola, cello or bass players, and Chamber Ensembles. Students learn to apply skills from private lessons or school music programs as they gain orchestral ensemble experience.

All auditions require a $15 audition fee and RSVP. For more information, or to schedule an audition, please email music@strazcenter.org or call 813.222.1002.

There will also be an Open House on both Tues., Aug. 13 and Sat., Aug. 24, during which prospective students and parents can learn more about the Conservatory’s programs, take a tour and ask questions. To RSVP for the Open House, please click here, or call 813.222.1002.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Summer Fantasy features iconic pieces from Company B

Next Generation Ballet's five week summer intensive culminates this Friday in the production of Summer Fantasy.

Eran Bugge, of the Paul Taylor
Dance Company
This year, the production has a special addition. Eran Bugge, of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, will stage “Bugle Boy” and “Rum and Coca Cola” from Paul Taylor’s iconic Company B.

“This is like the first violinist in Beethoven’s orchestra teaching the fifth symphony,” said Peter Stark, artistic director of NGB.

“Paul Taylor is considered a living legend of dance and gave personal permission to Ms. Bugge to stage the works.”

Bugge is a former student of Stark’s when he was with the Orlando Ballet Company. She has taught in previous Patel Conservatory summer programs and said of the NGB students, “These are some of the finest up and coming dancers around and they can certainly rise to the occasion of this master work.” 

Eran Bugge works with NGB student Talbot
Rue, 17, of Fort Wayne, Ind., on Bugle Boy
Bugge started her ballet training with Stark when he was the director of Orlando Ballet School. She then studied dance on a scholarship at the University of Hartford. She has performed in works by Amy Marshall, Katie Stevinson-Nollet and Jean Grand-MaƮtre and was also a member of Full Force Dance Theatre and the Adam Miller Dance Project.

Summer Fantasy feature more than 150 dancers who have come from 25 states and three other countries to train at the Patel Conservatory. The show includes a suite from Le Corsaire and cutting-edge contemporary work by international choreographers.

Don’t miss this unique dance production this Friday at 7 p.m. in Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center. Tickets start at $15.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Enter to win a scholarship to the Patel Conservatory!

Do you like to sing, dance, act or play an instrument? Have you dreamed about your name in lights, but not sure of the steps to take to get you there?

Here is your chance to get free training in the performing arts at the Patel Conservatory!

The Patel Conservatory is holding its annual Scholarship Contest for 2013-2014 school year classes.

As part of the Straz Center in downtown Tampa, the Patel Conservatory offers classes for adults and children of all ages, from beginning to advanced, pre-professional training in the arts. We offer acting classes, musical theater, dance, vocal arts, and instrumental lessons in rock and classical music.

Our instructors are working artists and most of our classes include a final performance in one of our theaters or classrooms, so you can get hands-on experience in a professional environment.

Our scholarship contest helps us find new talent who would benefit from our programs.

The contest runs through Aug. 16 and is open to adults and children in grade 2 or older who have not taken classes at the Patel Conservatory.

To enter to win, simply submit a two-minute video showing us your talent in dance, theater or music. Upload your video submission to a YouTube account and submit the link – along with a completed application form – to patelconservatory@strazcenter.org with a subject line of “Scholarship Contest Submission.”

For more information or complete contest rules, call us at 813.222.1002, or visit patelconservatory.org.

Break a leg!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Music guest blog: songwriting with a legend

Guest blog by Deborah Lynch, Patel Conservatory music faculty. As the coordinator of our Rock School program, Lynch attended the Rock and Roll Forever Summer Teachers' Institute in New York City.

The Rock and Roll Forever Summer Teachers' Institute was an energizing experience.

I got to work with some notable figures in the music business through the discussion groups and workshops. Some topics discussed included:

Music faculty Deborah Lynch, right, with Warren Zane
of the HBO Documentary Twenty Feet from Stardom.

"Popular Music as Visual Culture", led by Warren Zane. Zane is a music  historian and the Executive Director who also appears in the HBO documentary Twenty Feet From Stardom. He reviewed how artists use visuals/images to define their work and/or interest others in their work.

Music journalist Michael Azerrad talked about his background as a writer, and writing about the music business. In “Rock and Roll and the Common Core,” Steven Armstrong discussed integrating Rock and Roll History into standard curriculum lesson plans.

And, in “Songwriting for the Non-Music Teacher,” NYU professor Phil Galdston did a workshop on the basics of songwriting. Galdston is a songwriter/producer who is one of the few in the field to score hits on virtually every major chart. His songs and productions have appeared on nearly 80 million records by artists ranging from Celine Dion to Sheryl Crow.

In his workshop, Galdston came up with a simple melody with lyrics for the first line. He asked the group to think about next lines. I heard the song as a duet, and proposed a counter-melody to which I wrote lyrics. He sang the melody line and I juxtaposed my verse, which was the female's perspective to the story he was creating. Someone from the group commented, "You just wrote a song with Phil Galdston." Definitely a highlight of the week!

Later that evening, we saw a live interview with Hugo Burnham, former drummer of the English post-punk group Gang of Four.

More details about the conference to come!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

From ballet to banging cymbals...students of all ages enjoy performing at the Patel Conservatory this week

It’s been another full week of summer camps and intensives!

Our Next Generation Ballet Summer Intensive welcomed the three-week students this week. Students from around the country have come to Tampa to take part in our internationally recognized ballet training program. This intensive will culminate in an exquisite performance of Summer Fantasy on July 26 in Ferguson Hall, featuring a special staging of pieces from the iconic Company B, from Eran Bugge of the Paul Taylor Dance Company! Stay tuned for more details!

Little Shop of Horrors is in its second week of rehearsals and the show promises to be a fun and fantastic performance. Don’t miss this cult classic, complete with man-eating plant and some excellent performances from some truly talented musical theater students next weekend, July 19 and 20.

Little Shop of Horrors cast members rehearse Skid Row

Students in our percussion camp got to make some noise this week as they worked with Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra conductor Stephen P. Brown. They tried a variety of percussion instruments, worked on ensemble skills and even composed some original music.
Students from Percussion Camp try their hands at a variety of
instruments, with PCYO conductor Stephen P. Brown, right.

Percussion students practice an original piece on the timpani
drums which they collaboratively wrote, titled Timpani Teamwork.

A student in our Instrumental Petting Zoo tries the flute.

Kids in our instrumental petting zoo had a great time trying out an array of instruments from the brass, woodwind, string and percussion families.

Students from the Instrumental Petting Zoo camp.

There are still spots left in our Intro to Performing Arts and Dance for Musical Theater camps next week, and in our Chamber Music, Vocal Arts Academy: Senior Division, and Rock Star Retreat camps! Students in our Chamber Music and Vocal Arts camps will perform together in a joint concert together on Aug. 2.

For more informations about all of our camps and classes in dance, theater and music, please call 813-222-1002.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Open house at the Patel Conservatory

If you’re interested in the performing arts, you’re invited to visit the Patel Conservatory in downtown Tampa at one of our upcoming open houses.

Our 2013/2014 session begins on Aug. 26, 2013 with more than 100 classes for adults and children, from beginner through pre-professional training.

Come tour the Conservatory and learn more about all of our classes and programs. All new and prospective students are encouraged to attend.

For your convenience, we’ll have two dates to choose from:

Patel Conservatory Open Houses

Tues., Aug. 13, 2013
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Orientation at 6:30 p.m.

Sat., Aug. 24, 2013
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Orientations at 10 a.m. and noon

Light refreshments will be offered.

Orientation sessions provide students and parents with important information about our policies and procedures, and offers the opportunity to meet staff and ask questions.

Tours will be offered before and after each informative orientation session.

Also, on Tues., Aug. 13, our music department will have auditions for their vocal arts, jazz and orchestra programs; and on Aug. 24, there will be free ballet master classes.

To RSVP for our open house, please click here, or call 813.222.1002.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Music guest blog: Rock history in education

Guest blog by Deborah Lynch, Patel Conservatory music faculty. As the coordinator of our Rock School program, Lynch is attending the Rock and Roll Forever Summer Teachers' Institute in New York City.

I’m here on the exciting NYU/Steinhardt campus for the Rock and Roll Forever Summer Teachers’ Institute. I’ve joined a wonderfully talented group of 23 teachers from all over the world. I learned that there were 110 applicants for this inaugural education program, which will go live on the web at the end of September.

Rock and roll history is tied so cohesively to social studies and history that it is hard to imagine students receiving education in these subjects without it.

This week, the participants will be working on demonstration lesson plans. My group has a really fun assignment: hairstyles. For instance, how does an artist's changing hairstyles represent his/her growth as an artist; how do they represent the cultural changes in America? The example given to us was two photos of Diana Ross: how her hair looked when she was a member of The Supremes before she became a solo artist (an elegant up-do), and then how it looked at an exciting period of her solo career (an oversized Afro, which looked beautiful on her but not something I could have worn with any positive results!).  

It is unlikely that we will be meeting celebrities this week, but we will listen to lectures by some movers and shakers in the music business, including Rolling Stone Magazine's head writer, David Fricke.

Stay tuned!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Guest blog: Back from the Big Apple!

Guest blog by Tina James, Patel Conservatory Education Programs Manager for the Patel Conservatory. Tina’s primary responsibilities include overseeing 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.

The Broadway Star of the Future Award winners, Chandler Morehead and Tim Hart, are back from New York City and it was a tremendous experience.

The rehearsals for the National High School Musical Theater Awards were intense. Preparation for the end-of-the-week show was non-stop from sunrise to sunset. The nominees continued to work on their medley vocals and solo coaching for their final performances.

This year’s vocal coaches were the same as last year. Just incase you forgot, they were: 
From left, Tim Hart, Tina James and
Chandler Morehead
Chandler had the opportunity to work with Telly Leung, and Tim worked with Liz Callaway.

Hours and days went by, then poof – it was Sunday. Sunday was the day that all the nominees performed their medleys and solos for the judges. This can easily be considered the first round of judging. The tension in the room was so thick you could cut it with a knife. You could feel the nervous excitement in the air as each nominee stepped up to sing the solo he or she had been working on.

The judges were blown away by the amount of talent brought by this year’s nominees. The panel of judges for this year was a list of Who’s Who among the Broadway community. The judges were: Scott Ellis (Roundabout Theatre Company); Kent Gash (New Studio on Broadway, NYU Tisch School of the Arts Department of Drama); Tony® Award-nominee Montego Glover (Memphis); Rachel Hoffman (Telsey +Co); Alecia Parker (NAMCO); Nick Scandalios (Nederlander Organization); and Bernie Telsey (Telsey + Co).

And then it was Monday! We all headed to the Minskoff Theater for tech rehearsal with the crew and orchestra. Before we knew it, it was time…the lights dimmed in the theater, all 62 nominees ran on stage and the orchestra started to play.

There were seven different medleys, including one full of Bakers from Into the Woods. Once the medleys were complete, the finalists were selected and solos performed.

Congratulations to all the finalists, and the winners of the 2013 Jimmy Awards – Sarah Lynn Marion, from Hunting Beach High School Academy for the Performing Arts, representing the John Raitt Awards for Youth, and Taylor Varga, from Newton High School, representing the Connecticut High School Musical Theater Awards.

It was an incredible journey from the time we arrived in New York to the goodbyes on Tuesday morning. Best of luck to Chandler and Tim, I’m sure we’ll see you both on Broadway again!

To see more photos visit the NHSMTA flickr page.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Q and A with guest choregrapher Michelle Elkin

Patel Conservatory guest instructor Michelle Elkin is choreographing the Patel Conservatory Theater production of Little Shop of Horrors, which will be July 19 and 20 in the TECO Theater. We caught up with her to find out more about her experiences and what the cast of Little Shop of Horrors will experience working with her!

You live in Los Angeles now, correct? Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Rowland Heights, Calif., and have lived in Los Angeles for the past 17 years.

How did you get into show business?
I was dancing at a studio in Rowland Heights, Calif., when an open casting call came up for the feature film Annie. With no expectation or understanding of what that entailed, I ended up being hired at age 8, as a dancing orphan. At that time, there were many opportunities for young dancers with TV variety shows. I had very supportive parents who saw my passion and talent and were willing to help nurture this opportunity for me. We were given information about the best training in Los Angeles and so began my venture into show business. 

Tell us a more about your dance experience and how you got into choreography.
I was working in television and film starting as a young child. I would always dance around my living room and make up my own dances. In school, at a very young age, as a class assignment, I wrote that I wanted to be a choreographer when I grow up. Throughout my training I was fortunate to be coming up at a time when the top working choreographers were teaching and I knew without a doubt by their example, that dance was what I eventually wanted to do. I had two specific mentors, Marguerite Derricks and Joseph Malone, who took me under their wing training me as a dancer, and then as an assistant choreographer at a very young age. They gave me opportunities to learn along the way how to create for both stage and camera. Their training, along with other dance teachers and choreographers I have worked with, has continued to be invaluable to me.

Tell us about your work on Bunheads. What's it like to be part of a hit national television show?
I was the assistant choreographer to Marguerite Derricks on Bunheads. With clever writing that depicted dance truthfully, an amazing cast and crew, and a constant change of styles of music and dance disciplines, it was a playground to work on every day. Through my time working on the show, I was also able to choreograph the tap sequences on the show. On the season one finale, the creator of the show cast me in an acting part playing a dance captain. I am proud of the work that was done on that show.

Tell us about the new show that you are choreographing, Baby Daddy.
Baby Daddy is a half hour series on ABC Family about a 20-year-old who becomes a daddy when his ex-girlfriend leaves a baby on his doorstep. He then decides to raise the child with his mom played by Melissa Peterson. 
I can't give anything away yet because the episodes I choreographed won't air until the winter, but I had a blast working with Chelsea Kane and all of the cast on the show. It is a group of actors and crew who love every second of working together and immediately embraced me on day one, as if I had been with their show from the beginning.

Tell us more about your experience with the show Wonderland, which was produced here at the Straz Center?
I had experience working in musicals but Wonderland was the first Broadway show that I was a part of. Being the associate choreographer to Marguerite Derricks on the show, it was a completely different experience being on the creative team side and experiencing how a brand new show gets made from the beginning.

The accomplishment involved in creating a new show, the excitement of all of the opening nights, in Tampa, Houston and New York on Broadway, and most importantly the long term friendships I made throughout the journey, made Wonderland a great memory that I will hold forever.

Have you taught elsewhere, or is Little Shop of Horrors your first classroom experience?
I found a love for teaching very early on. I currently teach jazz and tap in Los Angeles at The Performing Arts Center, where I teach adults and kids. I am a co- director of the jazz program for ages 8-18 as well as an artistic director for a teen company. I also teach around the country at dance conventions or do in-house workshops at different studios. I am determined to share as much of my professional experiences with as many younger dancers as I can to continue the legacy of my teachers.

What can the performers of Little Shop of Horrors look forward to as part of their performing arts training?
My hope is that when these young artists are finished with this experience, they will have taken a new step on their journey in the arts and learned something about themselves. I feel like every show is like a Broadway show. We will play with characters, musicality and storytelling through dance. I believe we will all learn something new along the way.

For tickets to Little Shop of Horrors, click here.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spotlight on Shalyah Fearing

One thing is certain about the Fearing family from Hudson, Fla. - music is in their blood.

“Our house is filled with music. Someone is always playing [an instrument] or singing,” said Crystal Thomas, mom of eight kids from seven months to 14 years old.

The oldest four kids, who all sing and play a variety of instruments, even started their own band, called Fearingstar.

Shalyah Fearing performs in the Rock
School Blowout concert in April
“One day my brother was playing a song on the clarinet,” said Shalyah Fearing, 14, second oldest of the bunch. “I started playing on the piano, and then my sister started singing, and we thought, ‘We’re really pretty good!’”

They began playing at a cafe, and then at community events and recitals.

But in this family full of musicians and singers, Shalyah stood out.

Last December, when Fearingstar performed at a community celebration in New Port Richey, someone in the crowd noticed Shalyah and recommended the Patel Conservatory.

“I went on the [Patel Conservatory] website and I was intrigued with all the different classes and things they offer,” said Crystal.

Shalyah joined the Conservatory’s Rock School program in January, and immediately instructor Dean Tidey took notice.

“Her voice sounds much older than she is,” said Tidey. “When you close your eyes, she sounds like a classic soul singer.”

Tidey, a member of a Japanese band called the Muddy Apes, invited Shalyah to perform back up vocals on the group’s new album which was being recorded locally in April.

“I wanted to use one of the kids from Rock School to give them the experience of being in the studio,” he said. “Shalyah was ready for it.”

"I've never actually sang in a studio before," said Shalyah. "I got to meet the band and everything, so it was really cool. It was a good experience."

Shalyah with Dean Tidey (center) and his band the Muddy Apes
at a recording studio in Ybor City in Tampa.
Following the Rock School Blowout concert in April, she was also asked to perform at the Conservatory’s Spotlight Awards in May.

“I’ve performed in front of a lot of people before, but that was the biggest crowd I’ve ever been in front of...I can’t even explain how I felt. I was really excited that I got to perform at the Straz Center,” she said.

This summer, in addition to participating in Rock School again, Shalyah is trying something new. She’s joined the cast of the Conservatory’s summer theater production of The Little Mermaid, Jr.

“I was aiming for the part of Ursula and I got it! To me, she has some of the coolest songs in the play,” said Shalyah.

“I’m looking forward to making friends and learning more about the theater.”

When she’s not performing, Shalyah enjoys reading, and playing and writing music along with her siblings. Her ultimate goal is to be a professional singer.

“It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was four,” said Shalyah.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying every opportunity she gets to learn and grow, and to perform.

You can check out Shalyah and a cast of more than 80 students in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Jr. on Aug. 9 and 10 in the Straz Center’s Ferguson Hall, and in the Rock School Blowout concert in TECO Theater on Aug. 17, 2013.