Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Patel Conservatory celebrates 10 years of inspiration

The Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory is proud to be celebrating our 10th Anniversary this month!

Join us for the Conservatory's Spotlight Celebration on Jan. 28, 2015 as we celebrate 10 years of excellence in performing arts education.

Since December, 2004, the Patel Conservatory has been training young artists to hone their skills and enter the world of professional performing arts. We celebrate 10 years of inspiration, and we look forward to many years ahead!

Dr. Pallavi and Kiran Patel
“Ten years ago, we hoped to see eager and ambitious kids with dreaming eyes, happy faces and enchanting voices all yearning to perfect their skills in the performing arts,” said Dr. Pallavi Patel, whose generous support, along with her husband, Dr. Kiran Patel, inspired many others to give and made the Conservatory a reality.

“Ten years later, thousands of students have come here for training. They make us so proud: the dream we had ten years ago has been realized.”

In the past decade, the Conservatory has grown to offer camps and classes for approximately 2,000 students a year, who perform in more than 20 ticketed productions a year in our Straz Center theaters, gaining valuable experience in a professional setting.

“For me, it means a lot more than just the training,” said Carlin Dixon, who started taking dance in 2006 at the Conservatory when she was six years old. She is now 15 years old and a trainee with the Conservatory’s Next Generation Ballet pre-professional company.

“It’s such a great experience. Everyone cares so much about what you want to do and where you want to go in life. They help you attain those dreams and aspirations.”

Our students have gone on to perform on Broadway and in prestigious dance companies including Boston Ballet, Hamburg Ballet and many more.

Carlin Dixon
“It’s really an amazing program, and wonderful for students who are pursuing a career in the arts, or even just for fun,” said Carlin.

In addition to our on-site classes, we partner with organizations throughout the Tampa Bay area to provide performing arts experiences for underserved communities. We also offer scholarships to keep our camps and classes accessible for all students who wish to study the performing arts.

As a parent who has been with the Conservatory since our early years, Carlin’s mom Deirdre has seen the growth and expansion of programs.

“The classes have gotten more formal and in-depth, it’s only gotten better and better,” she said.

The Conservatory’s curriculum and outreach programs continue to evolve. While we celebrate the achievements of the past decade, we look forward to building on this extraordinary foundation to serve more aspiring artists in our community and beyond.

“People travel from all over to come here. We are really blessed to have the Patel Conservatory in Tampa,” said Deirdre.

We thank our patrons, donors, partners and all of our supporters for being a part of our mission to help students dream, reach, discover and create!

Join us for our Spotlight Celebration on Jan. 28, 2015 as we celebrate 10 years of inspiration by showcasing the talents of our dance, theater and music students. It's an evening of performances that captures the essence of all that the Patel Conservatory offers our students and our community. For more info, click here.

Parents, take the night off while kids enjoy fun and games

Parents, mark your calendars now for a parents’ night out in December. Take the night off while the kids enjoy fun and games at the Patel Conservatory’s Holiday Happen’ event.

Holiday Happenin’
Fri., Dec. 19, 2014
Grades 1 to 6
6 to 10 p.m.

It's a theater-themed PJ party! Students in grades one through six will enjoy an evening full of holiday activities, including theater games, a craft/gift making station, movies, holiday snacks and more. 

It’s a great opportunity for students to bring their friends and enjoy social time together while parents get some holiday shopping done or just enjoy a night out!

This event is open to all new and current students.

Participants are encouraged to come dressed in their pajamas.

The cost is $30 per student, or $50 for two students.

For more information or to register, call 813.222.1002.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Celebrate our 10th Anniversary with 10% off!

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center is celebrating its 10th year!

On Dec. 4, 2004, the Patel Conservatory opened its doors to offer the finest performing arts training. Since then we've grown to more than 100 classes and nearly 1,000 students in our school year programs.

We're thrilled and honored to have become a leader in performing arts education, and to celebrate, we’re offering 10% off spring classes!

Come see for yourself the quality of our programs by taking a class in dance, theater or musicJoin our family and experience the magic and transformative power of the performing arts.

Space is available in many of our classes for young children through adults including Young Children’s Chorus, Musical Theater, Improv, Beginning Adult Acting, On-Camera Acting,  Voice class, adult dance classes and more.

It’s the perfect opportunity to try something new in the new year. But don't wait until the new year to register because our 10th Anniversary special is only good through Dec. 5!

Register between Dec. 1 and Dec. 5 for spring classes, and receive 10% off!*

To take advantage of our 10th Anniversary special, simply call our registration office at 813.222.1002. A registrar will be happy to help you find the right class for you.

*Discount valid for new registrations only. Not valid for productions, fees or private lessons. Some classes may require instructor approval.

Spotlight on Tyler Hanks

When drummer Tyler Hanks signed up for a jazz class last year at the Patel Conservatory, he didn’t know a lot about jazz.

Tyler Hanks
He played a bit with his school jazz band, and had taken some drum lessons on and off, but “Patel is where I really got into jazz,” said Tyler, a junior at Steinbrenner High School.

Tyler came to the Conservatory because his sister Arden was taking dance classes. His parents wanted him to keep up his music skills and encouraged him to try the jazz class. He ended up enjoying the class a lot more than he expected.

“I just enjoy that it’s a small and intimate atmosphere,” he said.

Led by instructor Matt Weihmuller, the Patel Conservatory’s jazz ensembles will perform in the upcoming Jazz Jam concert on Dec. 5.

“Matt is a great teacher,” said Tyler, “I’ve learned a lot of different jazz tunes, and learned more about the history and different styles of jazz.”

In the class, Tyler connected with fellow musicians Parker Wilkson and Davin Norman, and joined their band, Infinite Eights. The alternative rock group plays local venues including at the Market on 7th and, most recently, opening for Aaron Carter at the Crowbar in Ybor City.

“We’re all really good friends. I love being able to go places and’s fun being able to express yourself,” he said.

Tyler also takes drum lessons with instructor Dave Rudolph at the Conservatory.

“I’ll learn something with Dave in the lesson and then be able to apply it in the class. It lets me practice and get better at things and cement stuff in my mind,” he said.

“Overall, it’s just a really good experience.”

Come enjoy an intimate evening with our talented jazz students, performing classics like Four by Miles Davis, at the Jazz Jam concert, Fri., Dec. 5, 2014 at 6:30 p.m.

For upcoming auditions for the Patel Conservatory's spring music ensembles, including jazz, chamber and Rock School, click here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Snow falls in Morsani Hall at this year's Nutcracker

The holidays are approaching, and there's no better way to celebrate the season than to enjoy the classic story of The Nutcracker.

This year’s production of Next Generation Ballet’s (NGB) Nutcracker will be even more magical as snow will fall on stage and over the audience!

Miguel Anaya
Featuring guest artists from The Washington Ballet Miguel Anaya and Maki Onuki, this enchanting ballet is a family tradition that’s sure to delight!

Miguel Anaya, who joins us as the Cavalier, is from Havana, Cuba, having trained at the Alfonso Perez Isaac School and National Ballet School of Cuba. He is a winner of the Grand Prix National Competicion in Cuba, and has performed as a soloist with Ballet Nacional de Cuba with Alicia Alonso.

This year’s Sugar Plum Fairy, Onuki, is from Kanagawa, Japan, and is currently in her 10th season with The Washington Ballet. She has received numerous awards including the 2010 bronze medal at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Miss., a MetroDC Dance Award for Outstanding Individual Performance for Wunderland in 2011, and a gold medal at VKIBC competition this year.
Maki Onuki

Choreographed by NGB Artistic Director Peter Stark, this production has “marvelous” costumes “with inventive, whimsical touches.” (Tampa Bay Times) From the moment the lights dim, audiences are transported to a magical place filled with marching toy soldiers, a growing Christmas tree, giant mice and crystalline waltzing snowflakes. “This Nutcracker is a standout among many.” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)

Don’t miss our award-winning NGB dancers, along with a cast of nearly 175 dancers, inThe Nutcracker Dec. 13 and 14, 2014 at the Straz Center.

Be sure to arrive early to get family photos with Santa Clause, and, on Sunday, enjoy live pre-show caroling in Morsani lobby from Patel Conservatory’s vocal arts students.

For more information or tickets, click here, visit our Ticket Sales Office in person, or call 813.229.7827.

Next Generation Ballet is the official pre-professional dance company of the Straz Center's Patel Conservatory. For more information about NGB, click here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Patel Conservatory instructor in next year's Hunger Games

With the The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 opening in theaters this weekend, we're giving at a shout out to Patel Conservatory theater instructor Eugenie Bondurant who will appear in the next installment of the blockbuster series.

The last book of the Hunger Games series was split into two films, and Bondurant appears in the second of the two, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.

She plays Tigris, who, in the book, is the capital citizen with the surgically altered features of a tiger, who offers heroine Katniss Everdreen and her rebel crew a place to hide out in the war-torn capitol city. We're dying to see Bondurant's make-up for the role!

The Patel Conservatory celebrates our 10th anniversary next month, and Bondurant has been with us since the beginning.

She taught one of our first classes at the Straz Center, before the Conservatory was built back in 2004. She continues to teach her on-camera acting programs here, which she developed while living and working in Los Angeles.

She has appeared in films and television shows ranging from Fight Club to Star Trek: The Next Generation. In her newest film she worked alongside a star-studded cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 is slated for release in 2015.

In the meantime, students of all ages have the opportunity to work with Bondurant through our Meisner and On-Camera Acting classes at the Conservatory.

In the Meisner class, students ranging from 9th grade through college explore the techniques of Sanford Meisner with Bondurant, a certified Meisner instructor. When discussing the style she has said, “Even if you’re playing a killer transvestite, there has to be something of you in this character. You and the character must mesh, otherwise it will look pushed.”

The On-Camera Acting class, for 10th graders through adults, helps students feel comfortable on camera and bring their own unique personalities to every performance. The class includes both technique and practical experience in front of the camera.

Space is still available in Bondurant’s spring on-camera class at the Conservatory. For more information, or to register, click here, or call 813.222.1002.

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center in downtown Tampa offers more than 100 classes in dance, music and theater, from beginner through pre-professional. For more information, visit or call 813.222.1002.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rock School students perform at Skipper's Smokehouse

The Patel Conservatory’s Rock School program is bringing the show on the road!

This month’s Rock School Blowout concert changes venues to the iconic Skipper’s Smokehouse in north Tampa.

Skipper’s is a Tiki style restaurant and oyster bar known for hosting live music nightly from local to well known bands. With its Florida fare including gator tail, conch fritters and smoked mullet and its casual outdoor stage, it’s sure to be a unique and fun experience.

“It’s somewhere different, so I’m looking forward to it,” said guitarist Dan Smith.

Dan has been playing with our Rock School program since he moved to Tampa in the summer of 2013.

“He’s done a lot of other band camps, and what you have there [at the Patel Conservatory] is far and away the best anywhere,” said dad Randy Smith, a software developer from New Jersey.

The family has lived in New Jersey and Puerto Rico and tried rock band programs in both places, as well as locally in Florida and even in Boston.

“Most of these places usually don’t have enough students at his playing level,” said Randy.

Dan’s been playing guitar since he was five years old. He also plays piano, bass and drums.

“I like playing guitar because it sounds cool, and I like listening to music, and I’m good at it,” said Dan. “I’ve definitely gotten better by playing in Rock School because Dean [Tidey] has taught me a lot...besides teaching you the song, he teaches other tools, like how to play riffs, and other stuff that helps you excel.”

Led by instructors Dean Tidey and Paul Stoddart, the Conservatory’s Rock School program places students in a band according to their age and skill level. The groups practice weekly and perform at the end of each session in a Rock School Blowout concert.

"The show is fun because you get to perform for a live crowd," said Dan.

The upcoming concert will feature classic and contemporary tunes, including Dan's band playing R U Mine? by the Arctic Monkeys, Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, and a special guest performance from well known singer and songwriter Christie LenĂ©e.

“Some of these kids are phenomenal,” said Randy.

Come jam with our Rock School bands while enjoying some local flavor on Sun., Nov. 23, 2014 at 3:30 p.m. at Skipper’s Smokehouse at 910 Skipper Rd., Tampa. Admission is free.

For musicians and vocalists interested in our Rock School program, the next auditions will be Sat., Dec. 6, 2014 at the Patel Conservatory. For more information, call 813.222.1002.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Theater student appears in independent film with Haley Joel Osment

Congratulations to Patel Conservatory theater student Shelby Ronea who makes her film debut this weekend in the independent film Sex Ed, starring Haley Joel Osment.

The film is about an inexperienced teacher, Osment (Sixth Sense, Pay It Forward), who tackles sex education with his inner city middle school students. It takes place and was shot in Tampa last year. Shelby plays one of the students.

Her role in Sex Ed is among many recent opportunities for Shelby. She was recently chosen to be a film critic for KIDS FIRST!, which posts film reviews by youth on Huffington Post and You Tube. In July, she attended the renowned Second City Training Center on full scholarship.

Being at Second City, it was so surreal. Being there and talking to people who’ve been on Saturday Night Live, it left me speechless. I had so much fun and I learned a lot about comedy,” said Shelby.

A sophomore at Blake High School, Shelby has been studying theater at the Patel Conservatory for more than two years. She is currently a theater apprentice working with instructor Eugenie Bondurant (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, ) who teaches the on-camera acting classes.

“Before I started at Patel , I didn’t have a lot of acting experience,” said Shelby, “Eugenie has helped me so much with my career.”

She said her classes at the Conservatory have helped her gain the skills to audition for plays and films, and helped her land roles at school plays.

“Patel [Conservatory] is like a huge family full of professionals, helping you. It’s just a loving environment,” she said.

Sex Ed was her first film audition, which turned into her first professional opportunity. Working with Osment was also like working with family.

“He was like a big brother, he gave a lot of good advice,” she said.

Sex Ed premieres Nov. 8, 2014 at the Studio Movie Grill at University Mall.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Frog and Toad charms audiences of all ages

When A Year With Frog and Toad opened on Broadway in 2003, it broke new ground by bringing professional children's theater to Broadway.

This weekend, Patel Conservatory Theater students bring this beloved musical to the Straz Center’s TECO Theater for audiences of all ages.

Based on the children's stories by Arnold Lobel, with a Tony-nominated score by Robert and Willie Reale, the show follows the woodland adventures of two amphibious friends, a worrywart toad and a perky frog, through four, fun-filled seasons.

Performed by students in grades 5 to 8, kids and adults alike will enjoy this charming story of enduring friendship.

Lindsey Davis, right, as Frog, and Micah Brooks as Toad
Director Matthew Belopavlovich was the perfect fit for the this show which pays homage to vaudeville. Belopavlovich’s original clown-theatre piece, LAUFFITI, was presented at the 2012 New York Clown Theatre Festival, and he recently toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“The director, his direction and dream he wanted for this show has been so fun and thrilling to be a part of. I have loved bringing his dream to life,” said choreographer Susan Downey.

The set was designed by the vertible team of Amy and Tyler Leavitt, who designed the set for PCT’s summer production of Jungle Book. Detailed features include hand-painted floors and an impressive 20-foot custom soaring proscenium that frames the stage.

“To walk in the TECO and see the transformation alone is worth it,” said Downey.

This is surely one you and your family won't want to miss!

The show runs tomorrow, Nov. 6 through Sun., Nov. 9, 2014. For show times and tickets, click here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Dance intensive brings students young and old together for a week of holiday fun

What are you doing for yourself this season? You’ve worked hard all year. So put on your dancing shoes and have some holiday fun with the Patel Conservatory’s Winter Fantasy dance intensive.

Patel Conservatory’s Open Dance Intensive:
Winter Fantasy
Dec. 16 through Dec. 20, 2014

Winter Fantasy is a week of dance classes that culminate in a ticketed performance in the Straz Center’s Jaeb Theater.

“To see what you can actually put together in such a short period of time,” said Jacqueline Rivera, who did the open dance intensive last spring, “it was a lot of fun...I was really proud of being a part of that.”

Bianca Rivera, left, with daughter
Bianca Rivera-Irions
When Rivera signed up for the adult jazz class at the Conservatory last summer, she had never before taken a dance class.

“I wanted to be a dancer when I was young, but we just couldn’t afford it,” she said.

Her daughter Bianca, 14, had taken classes at the Conservatory for years before Rivera finally decided to try it herself. Rivera and her daughter participated together in the open dance intensive in March.

“She was so encouraging, she would practice with me at home,” said Rivera.

Rivera currently takes the adult ballet class and is looking forward to the Winter Fantasy intensive.

“I refuse to give in to the fear, or the idea that I’m too old,” said Rivera.

In the upcoming intensive, students will get their toes tapping to Pennies from Heaven, experience the dazzle of Radio City as they learn Rockette style kicks, get their jazz hands on to Let it Snow and shake their hips with a little Flamenco.

It’s a holiday celebration from around the world that will get your heart rate going and help you earn a few extra treats this season.

Led by Patel Conservatory dance faculty Susan Downey and Kelly King, the week-long program allows students to challenge their skills and learn fun choreography in a variety of dance styles.

Whether you have had former dance experience, or if you want to try something new, the intensive is geared towards adults and teens of varying skill levels.

Tuesday through Friday, you’ll learn and rehearse dance and musical theater pieces. On Saturday, you’ll be ready to perform in the Winter Fantasy showcase, a ticketed performance that will be fun for the whole family.

Dancers will need tap, jazz and character shoes, a black leotard, black tights and black jazz pants.

Open dance intensive rehearsals will be:

Tues., Dec. 16 from 5:45 to 8:45 p.m.
Wed., Dec. 17 from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Thurs., Dec. 18 from 5:45 to 8:45 p.m.
Fri., Dec. 19 from 5:45 to 8:45 p.m.
Sat. 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The showcase will be on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in the Jaeb Theater.

The tuition for the week is $250. For more information, or to register, please call 813.222.1002.

For more information about the Patel Conservatory’s open dance program, click here.