Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spotlight on the Fontanini family

Jay and Marissa Fontanini have been bringing their kids to dance classes at the Patel Conservatory for almost three years.

Jay and Marissa say that, in addition to learning how to pliĆ© and tendu, their kids are learning lifelong skills like confidence and discipline through their positive experiences in the performing arts.

“Our children may not admit it, but without a doubt, what they get most excited about is being challenged to do things they don’t think are possible—only to find themselves reaching new heights,” said Marissa.

The Fontanini’s appreciate how the Patel Conservatory makes a difference not only in their kids’ lives in the classrooms and theaters, but also in the lives of thousands of other students throughout the Tampa Bay community.

That’s why they decided to become Straz Center donors.

“The decision to support the Patel Conservatory was an easy one for us,” said Marissa.

“What really gets us excited is the intentional impact the Patel Conservatory makes in the community. At our first Nutcracker experience, the Metropolitan Ministries partnership was highlighted. It is great to be a part of something that is available to everyone, especially those who might otherwise not have access to high quality fine arts education.”

For the Fontanini’s, performing arts education provides desperately needed instruction in a rapidly changing world.

“The Patel Conservatory enhances the culture of Tampa by giving consistent quality education to aspiring fine arts students. While our kids happen to dance - the convergence of so many performing arts educational outlets in one ‘hub’ makes the Tampa Bay area exceptional,” said Jay.

“The rise of technology in the information age could easily nudge out the performing arts. So it takes vigilance to keep such things alive to maintain a vibrant culture. We owe that to our future generations.”

The Fontanini’s invite other Conservatory parents and community members to show their support of arts education by making a pledge.

“We’d encourage any parent to think about how much their children can benefit, and consider making a contribution to help extend the reach of the Conservatory into the community,” said Jay.

Marissa agreed, “Perhaps some people may think their contribution won’t matter because they can’t make a major contribution, but several people making small donations with an ongoing commitment adds up!”

Please join us in supporting arts education at the Patel Conservatory by becoming a Straz Center Member. To make your gift today, clickhere. 

End of Year Celebration for all Conservatory families

Have you been in a Patel Conservatory class this year? Then you're invited to our biggest cast party of the year!

Patel Conservatory's
End of the Year Celebration
Saturday, May 16
Student showcase at 7 p.m.
Dinner in lobby of Morsani Hall at 8 p.m.

All Patel Conservatory students and families are invited to celebrate another year of classes, performances, competitions, friendships and successes!

The evening kicks off with a showcase of student works in dance, theater and music from those who will be graduating or moving on to other opportunities. We’ll also recognize Peter Stark, dance department chair and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet, for his years of service.

Following the show, enjoy dinner with fellow Conservatory families in the lobby of Morsani Hall, and music and dancing under the tent, courtesy of Ultimate Entertainment.

It'll be a cast party for all our students who have worked so hard throughout the year. So come eat, relax, dance and socialize with friends.

The student showcase will be in the Jaeb Theater at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5.

Dinner is free and will be provided by Patel Conservatory families. All are invited and encouraged to participate!

Dinner is free, but RSVP is appreciated. To RSVP, click here.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Why arts education matters (we couldn't have said it better ourselves)

Re-posted from the Straz Center blog, posted on 4.7.15.

We started to write a blog about why arts education matters, but we found we couldn't have said better than Tony Award winner Judith Light in her blog for the National Endowment for the Arts, “Why Arts Education Matters”.

Light echoes why the Straz Center and Patel Conservatory work so hard to create and maintain community outreach programs, our field trip series, scholarship opportunities, and jobs for extraordinary local teaching artists.

She explains why we should support arts education...

My mother taught me when I was three years old to memorize and recite "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Everybody laughs, but it's absolutely the truth. My mother was my first teacher of the arts, and I performed "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" for my father, so he was my first audience…

When I was growing up, my parents supported my interest in taking acting classes and doing community theater. My father drove me to the rehearsals every day after school, whenever I was doing community theatre productions, and I went to a performing arts camp in New Hope, Penn. I grew up in Trenton, N.J., and my parents even allowed me to go on the train to New York City when I was a young teen to study theater.

My parents' faith in me at that young an age—and the kind of professional training I was getting from my theater teachers—gave me a sense of purpose, a sense of self-confidence, a sense of discipline. I learned what artistic achievement actually was, what hard work the business was. I didn't have this rosy picture of what our business was. I was really learning what it would require for me to become a professional.

I was also learning about life. … I learned about having faith in myself and about developing humility. Most people know that this business is all about not getting everything you want when you want it. Since success comes with such incredible gifts, many people don't realize that, for an actor, most of our lives are actually filled with recognizing that we can't control things. So I've learned, and am still learning as this is an active process, to simply be grateful for what I've been given. Those are very, very precious life skills that were all part of my arts education.

I became an actor, but arts education isn’t just about preparing our young people for a career in the arts. …They learn about discipline and hard work and what's required and what they have to do to bring themselves to the work.

They learn how they can be of service in the world through the arts. They learn how to elevate the people around them. They learn how to work with a team. By studying the arts, these students are exposed to worlds and lives that they might not have any other way of knowing about or any other way to connect with in their lives the way they are right now. Arts education expands their horizons.

These young people are our legacy. We are passing the torch to them. And I think that’s one of the most important reasons why we need to foster the arts. … I think when we get into the arts as young people, it tends to be pretty much about us and our egos. But as we really learn about the arts we discover that it is all about being of service and all about supporting others in seeing things they would not otherwise see—about themselves as well as other people.

Make a choice to join us in inspiring audiences and artists to dream, reach, discover and create!

Become a Straz member today! Visit strazcenter.org or call 813.222.1002.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Discounts available for select music camps

The Patel Conservatory is offering discounts for select music camps this summer. Check out these combo deals when you register for two or more music camps!

Young Children’s Music Combo
Sign up for three of our young children’s music camps and save $100!
Get your little ones started on a path towards lifelong music appreciation with a solid foundation in music education.

Jun. 29 - Jul. 10, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. - $250
Pint-sized Percussion (Grades 1-5)
Jun. 29 - Jul. 3, 1 to 4 p.m. - $150
Instrument Petting Zoo (Grades 2-5)*
Jul. 6 - 10, 1 to 4 p.m. - $150

Cost for all three camps: $450

*Offer good for Instrument Petting Zoo from July 6-10 only.

Instrumental Combo
Save $50 when you combine Instrument Petting Zoo and Pint-Sized Percussion the week of July 27 through July 31.

Instrument Petting Zoo (Grades 1-5)*
Jul. 27 - 31, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. - $150
Pint-Sized Percussion (Grades 1-5)
Jul. 27 - 31, 1 to 4 p.m. - $150

Cost for both camps: $250

*Offer good for Instrument Petting Zoo from July 27-31 only.

For more information on Patel Conservatory's music camps and classes, click here. Discounts not available through online registration. To register, call 813.222.1002.

Featured camp of the month: Musical Theater

This month, we highlight our most popular camp, Musical Theater.

Does your child love to act out different characters, sing along to their favorite shows and dance their hearts out around the living room?

Harness that energy and budding love of the arts in one of the Patel Conservatory's musical theater camps!

In our musical theater camps, students explore music, dance and theater in one fun-filled week that lets them use their imaginations and explore the performing arts. They’ll enjoy drama-based games and activities, improvisation and scene work geared toward their age levels.

At the end of the week, they'll show off new skills in a showcase for friends and family.

Offered multiple weeks throughout the summer, with different themes each week, they’ll want to come back again and again!

Full day Musical Theater camps are offered for 2nd through 8th graders, and half day Mini Musical Theater camps are offered for preschoolers through Kindergartners.

Musical Theater Camp (Grades 2-8)

Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

$345 per week
Weeks offered:
July 20-24
July 27-31
August 10-14

Mini Musical Theater (PreK-Gr. 1)
Mon. – Fri., 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
$245 per week
Weeks offered:
June 8-12
June 15-19
July 13-17
July 20-24
August 3-7

To register, click here, or call 813.222.1002.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spotlight on Catherine Chapman

When Catherine Chapman first joined the Patel Conservatory’s vocal arts program, she had no idea that she would learn so much.

I originally added the choir class for something to put on my resume. I wanted to go to college for music, but I realized my resume wasn’t that long,” said Catherine.

Catherine, 18, began her music journey with piano lessons when she was just five years old. In middle school, she switched to viola and played with the Patel Conservatory Youth Orchestra for two years.

When she started at Tampa Preparatory School in eighth grade, she decided to join the vocal program.

“I really like vocal choir. It was small, but it was also fun. We were always in different ensembles and trios, and we did some Glee songs.”

As she approached her senior year and realized she needed a bit more experience for college applications, she signed up for the Patel Conservatory’s Senior Choir and Senior Ensemble.

“The Patel Conservatory choir is different because it’s more like an intensive with the music and concert schedule,” said Catherine.

Catherine was surprised to find that not only did her singing improve, she also found a sense of camaraderie that she hadn’t expected.

“It’s a really fun group of people to be with, they’re all very happy… everyone is there because they want to be there."

In the fall, she also took private voice lessons with instructor Kristi Beinhauer. Having seen Beinhauer perform with the St. Petersburg Opera Company, she enjoyed training with a working professional.

“I realized during my college auditions that my voice had gotten a lot better. My solo and ensemble vocals had gotten a lot better, and it helped me lead the choir at school."

At auditions, Catherine was asked to sing in various styles including opera, classical and contemporary. She felt her lessons and classes at the Conservatory helped prepare her more than she anticipated.

"I've learned a lot of different techniques, like breathing techniques that helped me project my voice."

Catherine will start this fall at the University of Florida College of Music. She'd like to major in music education.

In the meantime, she is looking forward to performing in the upcoming Vocal and Instrumental Concert in May. Her group will perform classic favorites such as Someone to Watch Over Me and Chattanooga Choo Choo.

“We have a lot of choreography and that’s going to be awesome…It’s going to be super fun,” she said.

Join us for our Vocal and Instrumental Concert on Tues., May 12 at 6:30 p.m. For tickets or more information, click here.

For more information on the Conservatory's vocal arts program, including our summer Voice Intensive, call 813.222.1002, or click here.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Adrienne Barbeau shares her experience with Fiddler on the Roof cast

Special thanks to actress Adrienne Barbeau for stopping by TECO Theater on Friday for a quick Q & A with the cast of Patel Conservatory’s Fiddler on the Roof.

Barbeau, the iconic actress who rose to popularity in the 1970’s, is best known for her role as Bea Arthur’s daughter, Carol, in the hit TV show Maude, and for films such as The Fog and Swamp Thing. She currently plays Berthe in the Broadway tour of Pippin, which played at the Straz Center last week. At the age of 69, she takes on high flying trapeze stunts in her role as Pippin’s grandmother.

Before for her own performance on Friday evening, she stopped by the set of Fiddler to meet the cast, take questions and offer her expertise and wisdom for those interested in a career in show business. Barbeau spoke of her time with the original Broadway company of Fiddler on the Roof in 1965, and how she went from ensemble, to playing Hodel alongside Bette Midler. She also created the role of Rizzo in Grease on Broadway, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award®.

She shared life anecdotes and answered several questions from the cast that ranged from her favorite show to advice for anyone wanting to pursue an acting career. She was gracious and kind, and it was a great opportunity for the cast to share in the experience.

Being a part of the Straz Center, the Patel Conservatory strives to offer opportunities like these whenever possible for guest artists to share their experience with our students. Thanks to Barbeau for sharing her time and talent.

Fiddler on the Roof continues through this Saturday, April 25.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Congratulations to this year's Broadway Star of the Future winners!

Congratulations to Kylie Heyman and Kamari Saxon who won the Straz Center’s 2015 Broadway Star of the Future Award!

The two were recently recognized with the award at the Florida State Thespian Festival.

Now in its fifth year, the Straz Center gives the Broadway Star of the Future Award to one male actor and one female actor in recognition of their outstanding performance in a musical theater production.

Kylie Heyman
Kylie, 17, of St. Petersburg, was recognized for her performance as Reno in Anything Goes. A student at Shorecrest Preparatory School, she has appeared as Mary Poppins in Mary PoppinsVelma Kelly in Chicago, Liesel Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, among others. She has previously studied voice with Rachael Marino at the Patel Conservatory and taken part in the Broadway Theatre Project.

Kamari Saxon
Kamari, of Jacksonville, was recognized for his performance as Flick in Violet. A student at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts, he has appeared in Extravaganza, Growing Up, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Star Fish Circus as an aerialist, and others.

As recipients of the Broadway Star of the Future Award, Kylie and Kamari will travel to New York City this summer to represent the state of Florida and the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in the National High School Musical Theater Awards.

Congratulations to these rising Broadway stars!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spotlight on: Alex Carr, Rock School student

Alex Carr had taken drum lessons for years before he finally got the opportunity to perform in a band.

“Before Rock School, I hadn’t been able to find anyone interested in starting a band,” said Alex.

He signed up for his first Rock School band at the Patel Conservatory after his parents saw an article in the newspaper about the program. That was about five years ago. Now a sophomore at Berkeley Preparatory School, Alex continues to enjoy the experience year after year.

“I really just like the experience of playing with a band, rehearsing and putting on a show at the end,” said Alex. “It’s great to be able to practice with a group of people that are around your skill level and like basically the same kind of music you do.”

He’s played with an array of musicians over the past few years, and even keeps in touch with some of his first bandmates.

“It’s a good way to make friends who are interested in music… you branch out musically, and you keep a lot of the connections,” he said.

In fact, his most recent Rock School band has begun to jam together outside of Conservatory rehearsals, including at a youth jam night at the Living Room in Dunedin.

Alex is looking forward to playing at the upcoming Rock School Blowout concert this Sunday at Skipper’s Smokehouse. His band will play Strange Times by the The Black Keys, and Ignorance by Paramore. The concert will also include performances from the Conservatory's jazz ensembles.

“Skipper's is a really cool venue. They have a nice stage and it’s a cool atmosphere they have going on.”

Alex also keeps busy with crew and varsity volleyball at school. (His volleyball team recently won the state championship).

Rock School remains his time to jam, chill and just have fun.

“It’s great to play in a band. I don’t have to be world famous, but to play every once in a while [in front of an audience] is a lot of fun.”

Don’t miss the Patel Conservatory's free Rock School Blowout concert this Sun., Apr. 12 at 3 p.m. at Skipper’s Smokehouse!

Auditions for the Conservatory’s summer Rock School and Rock Star Retreat will be May 19 and 23. For more info, or to sign up, contact Allison at 813.222.1002 or allison.novak@patelconservatory.org.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Guest blog: Tap dance is alive and well

Ashlyn Bolton with Savion Glover and
younger sister Emma (left).
Guest blog by Ashlyn Bolton, Patel Conservatory dance student

I was recently fortunate to have the opportunity to witness one of today's tap dance masters, Savion Glover, in performance.

Mr. Glover came to the Straz Center with the touring tap dance production, StePz, which also features fellow tap dancers Marshall Davis, Jr., Robyn Watson, Lisa La Touche, and Sara Savelli.

While in Tampa for the day, the cast of STePz spent time at one of the Patel Conservatory's partners in education, Blake High School, where they hosted an educational talk-back session. Glover spoke about how he first entered the world of dance.

By the age of 7, Glover started dancing at Broadway Dance Center, which was known as Hines-Hatchet Dance Academy at the time. Through his younger years, he was surrounded by tap dance greats such as;  Jimmy Slyde, Gregory Hines, Chuck Green, Lon Chaney, and Lady Dianne Walker to name a few. They were his mentors the, “Balanchine's of the tap world.”

During the talk, Glover was very thoughtful with every word he spoke. Each word was thought out with care and intelligence as he made it clear that the reason he dances is to honor the tap greats throughout history.

Glover gives students a preview demonstration at Blake High School, a Patel
Conservatory community partner.
The cast tap danced in an improv circle, showing musicality, creativity, and a pure love for what they do. Over the past several years, I have had the opportunity to work with one of the cast members, Lisa LaTouche,  at different tap workshops. Seeing one of my mentors/teachers perform that night was very inspiring.

As showtime approached, the audience's excitement grew. The show was magical. Fluidity, style, and spunk graced the stage. There were a few pieces done with miniature staircases, to pay homage to the famous tap staircase dances done throughout history. I automatically think of Shirley Temple and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, singing and dancing together up and down a staircase in the movie The Little Colonel. This famous dance, and duo, is what made me want to start dancing when I was younger. I'm sure that somewhere in the audience there were young kids, in awe, much like I was at their age.

Tap dancers in the audience caught onto one of the “shave-and-a-haircut” rhythm sequences, which Glover executed by gliding down the stairs backwards while scraping the edge of each step with his taps. This phenomenal display of brilliance elicited much excitement from the audience.

Each piece had a certain unique feeling, in music, style, and execution. One of my favorite moments of the night was Glover's solo, performed to the song, "Mr. Bojangles." It gave me chills, as I'm sure it did others. He made it look so effortless, even when his feet moved so fast you couldn't see them moving! No joke!

After the show, I attended a Q&A with the cast. One of the questions asked was, "what is one thing you want the entire world to know about tap dance?" The entire cast agreed that the world needs to “know the history of the dancers [for what they're worth], in their respected level.” As Sarah Savelli put it, "we can't move on into the future without knowing our past." It's sad to say that I've witnessed the majority of my generation having no clue who people like Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. are. After watching Savion Glover perform in the show and at the school, I truly believe our tap dance legends who have passed on live today through him.

A question asked during the course of the night "what's your favorite tap step?"

Glover  replied, “it's all about the sound, not the step.”

Personally, from a tap dancer's point of view, I feel that that is one of the hardest questions to answer. You get to a point where you've done all the so called "steps" and turn to more of the music you're making.

“Tap dance is music - not just dance,” Glover said. It's an art form, one which shouldn't be overlooked.

Perhaps the most poignant quote from the night, which has stuck with me, was Glover's advice to aspiring dancers to “be an individual, look to the greats for inspiration, and never stop self discovering.”

After hearing that, I definitely felt inspired to get back in the studio to learn more about myself, through the music coming from my feet, because, as Glover put it, “[you], your heartbeat, makes the music.”

For more info on tap classes at the Patel Conservatory, call 813.222.1002 or visit patelconservatory.org.