Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spotlight on Ashlyn Lopez

Ever since she was a toddler, Ashlyn Lopez has shown a natural love for performing.

Ashlyn Lopez, right, with Lindsey Davis
“When she was three, she memorized all the songs of the Disney princess soundtrack. She sang and acted them out,” said Ashlyn’s mom Tobi Porter.

In addition to performing in the upcoming production of Joust! A Mighty Medieval Musical at the Patel Conservatory, Ashlyn will soon be making her television debut on the popular CW series The Vampire Diaries.

Ashlyn scored a guest role as a young version of the character Nadia in an upcoming episode, due to air March 6.

Ashlyn started theater classes at the Patel Conservatory when she was four years old.

“I like coming to the Conservatory because I learn lots of things, like how to act and dance and sing. It also helps me meet more friends,” said Ashlyn.

Now, at age 9, she’s in her fourth Patel Conservatory Theater production. She plays Merlin in the light-hearted Joust!, a musical take on The Sword in the Stone, performed for kids by second through fourth graders.

She says her experience with PCT productions and classes has helped her in auditions for professional roles.

She recently auditioned in New York City for the role of Matilda for the Broadway production of Matilda the Musical.

“It was like being at the Conservatory because when you audition for plays...I had to get up and sing in front of judges,” said Ashlyn.

“It was very much like how Patel does their casting for their shows,” said Porter. “[Ashlyn] didn’t seem to be phased at all.”

Porter credits the Patel Conservatory for giving Ashlyn the opportunity to do what she enjoys, and get pre-professional experience in the process.

“She knows the concept of stage left and stage right, and it’s all been fun for her. She gets to do something she loves to do,” said Porter.

As Merlin, Ashlyn enjoys dressing up and becoming a totally different character.

“I like that he has a beard...and that I have to dye my hair white,” she said.

Come see Ashlyn in Joust! A Mighty Medieval Musical, which runs Thur., Feb. 27  through Mar. 8 in TECO Theater.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On-camera workshop with Ellen Jacoby

Would you like to work in the film and television industry?

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center is hosting a two-day workshop with Ellen Jacoby, one of the most in-demand casting directors in the Florida film and television industry.

If you work, or aspire to work, in the film business, this is the workshop that can jumpstart your career.

Get one-on-one time with the Miami-based casting director who has cast such feature films as Ace Ventura, True Lies and There’s Something About Mary, and television shows such as Burn Notice, Miami Vice and CSI: Miami.

The workshop will cover important aspects of on-camera work. You’ll learn how to maneuver through the film business, dissect copy for auditions, and develop reliable on-camera acting techniques. Jacoby also will offer valuable recommendations on what your next step should be.

On-Camera Acting Workshop with Casting Director Ellen Jacoby
Sat., Mar. 22 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sun., Mar. 23 from 12 to 4 p.m.
at the Patel Conservatory,
located at the Straz Center in downtown Tampa

$135 for Saturday only
$200 for both Saturday and Sunday

Space is limited and pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, call 813.222.1002. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jazz band takes on Miley’s Wrecking Ball

Patel Conservatory student plays for renowned pianist Jon Batiste and
jazz band Stay Human
Jazz artists Jon Batiste and the Stay Human band recently gave a master class to students from Blake High School’s and Patel Conservatory’s music programs.

Prior to their performance at the Straz Center, in their Jazz Is: Now! class, the group shared tips on how to become a professional musician and how to bring themselves to every performance.

“No one can be a better you,” said one of the band members.

Batiste invited students to play the piano, and gave feedback on their performances.

“It was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced,” said Conservatory student and pianist Parker Wilkson in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. “It was really cool to get that close in such an intimate setting with such an incredible musician.”

The Patel Conservatory’s outreach program provides the opportunity for master classes and other arts education experiences like this for our students and our community partners.

The class ended with a jam session with Conservatory jazz and saxophone instructor Matt Weihmuller and Blake students, including Stay Human’s signature version of Miley Cyrus’s Wrecking Ball.

Check out the vocals from the Blake student who joins in on this You Tube video!

 Thanks to Jon Batiste and his band members for sharing their experience and wisdom.

To support the Conservatory’s outreach and arts education efforts, please click here.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An experience to remember

The 2014 Spotlight Awards supports our arts education programs at the Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory, including our outreach program, which serves more than 30 community partners throughout the Tampa Bay community.

One of the things the Conservatory provides for our community partners is tickets to shows or dress rehearsals when they’re available. The goal is to give these opportunities to students who would otherwise be unable to attend shows at the Straz.

The following is a letter we received from one of our community partners,

“Jane attended The Nutcracker along with a group of 21 students that I hosted through the generosity of your educational program. I cannot put into words the effect the Nutcracker opportunity had on Jane. I watched her as I did the other youth and she did not take her eyes off the stage. She was AWE-STRUCK.

Jane is 16 and this is the first time she has been to a performance at the theatre. She lives in poverty at a trailer park... She lost her father six months ago to lung cancer. Jane also has been bullied and struggles with feeling like she doesn't belong.

The Straz Center opportunity was an eye opener for her. It was a magical afternoon for Jane and I can tell you, she was meant to join our group on Saturday...She took a lot of photos of the water fountain near the valet, pictures with Santa, etc.

...the opportunity the Straz provided, I felt you and your colleagues should know the impact it had on a child that lives in a depressed environment.

Continue your hard work and know that it is making a difference.”

- Nikki Inda, Program Coordinator, Moffitt Healthy Kidz

Making a Difference
You can help make a difference by reserving your seats now for the 2014 Spotlight Awards through sponsorship!

When you support this fundraising event, your contributions make a difference for students like Jane and thousands more!

Sponsorship starts at $1,000 and includes reserved seating for the show and dinner. Share a sponsorship with another family, or ask your company to get involved.

If you have questions about how you can help support the arts education programs at the Straz Center's Patel Conservatory, please contact Beth Miller at 813-222-1002 or

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Auction donations requested for the 2014 Spotlight Awards

The Patel Conservatory’s 2014 Spotlight Awards is guaranteed to be a fabulous evening. This fundraising event will showcase highlights of our 2013/2014 season, followed by dinner and dancing for the entire family.

This year, the event will also include an expanded silent auction. Guests will have the opportunity to bid on fantastic items like jewelry, electronics, autographed memorabilia from visiting artists like Adam Carrolla, tickets to local attractions and more!

Get tickets to see Winter the Dophin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
and more great items at the 2014 Spotlight Awards silent auction.
You can help make it a huge success by donating items for our auction.

The more we have, the more we sell! And the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center will receive 100% of the proceeds.

Do you have season tickets to the Bucs or Lightning? Do you know someone who sells Pampered Chef, Silpada, etc.? 

Think outside the box! Unique experiences like a hot air balloon ride, fishing excursion or box seats to a concert or sporting event are great contributions!

Other ideas include a weekend at a beach condo or mountain cabin, gift baskets from boutiques or kid friendly businesses, golf packages, autographed sports memorabilia, and gift certificates to local movie theaters, miniature golf, etc. (All items must be new.)

Donations may be dropped off at the registration desk in the Patel Conservatory’s Chairmen’s Library. Please include the auction donation form with each donation. (And please make sure donors keep a copy for their own records.)

For questions or more information, or to volunteer for our auction committee, please contact auction chair Brandy Gold at or call 813.222.1002.

Thank you for your generosity and support.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Free master class with Elizabeth de Trejo

The Patel Conservatory will offer a free vocal master class with Elizabeth de Trejo.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the renowned soprano who will be a featured soloist in Opera Tampa’s upcoming L’amour Toujours A Popera! Concert at the Straz Center in Tampa.

De Trejo performed with Opera Tampa in La Traviata, Romeo et Juliette, Lucia di Lammermoor and Faust, and with North Carolina Opera as Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte and the title role in Bellini's masterpiece, Norma.

She recently performed in Carnegie Hall as the soprano soloist in Carmina Burana, as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, in a tour with the Florida Orchestra as guest soloist, and in concerts of zarzuela in Mexico City and Lincoln Center. She has worked with the Metropolitan Opera in Lulu, and made her Carnegie Hall debut as a soloist under the baton of composer John Rutter.

De Trejo has performed with several opera companies nationally and has performed internationally across Europe. She has received numerous awards from prominent vocal competitions, including the Gerda Lissner Opera Competition in New York, the MacAllister Opera Competition, the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in the Connecticut and Gulf Coast Regions, the Jenny Lind Soprano Competition, the Rosa Ponselle Competition and the Giulio Gari Foundation Opera Competition and the Liederkranz Competition. She received her Bachelor of Music from Loyola University, New Orleans and her Master of Music from Yale University.
The free master class will be Sat., Mar. 1, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

RSVP is required no later than February 28. Participants are asked to submit repertoire selections at the time of registration.

For more information, or to RSVP, please contact the Patel Conservatory registration office at 813.222.1002 or

Monday, February 3, 2014

Just added! Open dance intensive for adults and teens

Ever thought of dancing in a Broadway or Vegas style show? Well now is your chance!

The Patel Conservatory is hosting an Open Dance Intensive for anyone who wants to challenge their skills and learn fun choreography in a variety of dance styles.

This week-long intensive offers exciting and demanding classes that will culminate in a Cabaret style performance in the Patel Conservatory’s TECO Theater.

Whether you have had former dance experience and want to get back into it, or if you just want to try a new fitness challenge, the classes will be geared towards adults and teens of varying skill levels.

Led by Patel Conservatory dance faculty Susan Downey and Kelly King, classes will feature a range of styles including Fosse Jazz, Broadway Tap, Rockette-style high-stepping, burlesque and musical theater.

Put your skills to the test as you devote three hours a night to rehearsals, learning dance numbers from popular musicals including “Cabaret” from Cabaret, “Welcome to the Burlesque” from Burlesque, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” from Fascinating Rhythm and more.

You’ll learn to dance, sing and act while experiencing what it’s like to rehearse and perform in a professional show.

The intensive will be Tues. -  Fri., Mar. 11 through Mar. 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Sat., Mar. 15 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cost is $250 for the week.

All students will perform in the final showcase March 15 at 7 p.m. in TECO Theater.

For more information, or to register, please call 813.222.1002 or email