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So You Want To Be A Nurse? New Training Program Takes Only 16 Months

The employment outlook for registered nurses will grow by 19 percent from 2012 to 2022 nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth is fueled by many things, including an increase in the need for preventative care and the aging baby boomer population. The need is particularly strong in Florida, where the Florida Center for Nursing predicts a shortage of 56,000 nurses will occur by 2025.

New York’s Utica College plans to help address these needs with a new nursing program in St. Petersburg.

The idea came about as some of the college’s retired faculty living in the Tampa Bay area noticed the region’s growing healthcare industry.

"It seemed particularly important to us, given that we see different ways people can earn a nursing degree as a strategy for helping the residents of Florida," says Dale Scalise-Smith, VP of Utica College’s School of Online and Extended Studies and External Partnerships.  

An innovative aspect of the program is its accelerated format, allowing someone with a Bachelor’s Degree in a subject other than nursing to enter the profession in 16 months. This is made possible because of the hybrid classroom and online delivery system which includes both classroom and lab work as well as clinical experiences.

"We really wanted to find innovative ways to deliver high quality education programs in a collaborative environment," says Scalise-Smith.

The intention is not to compete with, but rather complement existing programs to help fill the vacancies. Through an agreement with BayCare Health Systems, Utica plans to utilize evening and weekend slots at local hospitals for the clinical experience component, allowing the daytime slots to be available for other programs.

The college is repurposing 8,000 square feet of space at 9400 4th St. North in St. Petersburg to include a lab, classroom, student lounge and faculty and administrative offices.

A number of new positions will be created as a result of the program, including full-time faculty, student success coaches and administrative positions such as the director of academic services who will oversee both teaching and academic domains.

The first class begins in August, with an expected enrollment of 16.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dale Scalise-Smith, Utica College

All Children's Research To Focus On Community, Plans To Add 300+ Jobs

A new education and research center and grassroots community programming will address current and long term health needs of children in St. Petersburg and beyond.

All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine recently purchased land adjacent to its current building in downtown St. Petersburg to expand its research and training facilities. The primary focus of the new center will be in neurosciences, cancer and cardiac research and disease. The facility will support an expanded residency and medical student program, as well as training for nurses and other allied health professionals.

"The facility will attract and support a number of PhD and Masters-level researchers, physicians and clinical scientists that will contribute to our vision to be able to cure and better treat disease, particularly for chronic populations," says Bill Horton, senior VP of strategic business services for All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The property was purchased from the University of South Florida (USF), which was a natural fit given the existing relationship the hospital has with the USF Children’s Research Institute, where scientists from both organizations collaborate.

The center will also strengthen the medical research corridor that is developing in St. Petersburg including USF, USF St. Petersburg, Bayfront Health Systems, Florida Blue’s Healthbox Accelerator Program and entrepreneurial incubator biotech firms developing in the Tampa Bay area.

"There’s a thriving academic research environment in this corridor," says Horton. "It’s a tremendous synergy that feeds and supports one another in the cross-development of this scientific work."

An estimated 300 to 400 new jobs will be created in as a result of the expansion. The development for the new property will be funded through philanthropy and grants. The facility is expected to open in 2018 or 2019.
   
The hospital is also working with the community at large to address critical issues in the short-term, such as infant mortality and childhood obesity. Grassroots education programs and interventions are being developed in collaboration with the City of St. Petersburg, in addition to changes in public policy to improve the overall health of the community.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Bill Horton, All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine

St. Petersburg Greenhouse Launches Craft Entrepreneurship Program

Etsy, the most popular online marketplace for handmade items, is collaborating with cities across the U.S. to make it easier for crafters to supplement their income through workshops and expert advice. Because of its thriving arts culture, St. Petersburg was recently selected as one of 10 cities to pilot the program this year.

The program started last March in Rockford IL and has since expanded to places like Newark NJ and Santa Cruz County, Dallas TX.  The idea is to create an open source curriculum that can be used by other areas to run their own classes.

Unlike most economic development programs that provide tools to start businesses, Etsy’s goal is to provide supplemental income for people out of work during seasonal periods or perhaps to help a household boost itself over the poverty line.

Local classes will be hosted by the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, a collaborative effort between the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and City of St. Petersburg. Classes are free and available to crafters who have not sold on Etsy in the past.

Classes are taught by local craft sellers who have been successful using Etsy as an outlet. Topics include time management, branding, pricing, shipping and photography. Participants will be able to sell their first 20 items for free on Etsy. The first session begins August 4.

"Here in St. Petersburg, such a large part of our economy and what makes us go is in the arts," says Sean Kennedy, Greenhouse Manager and Economic Development Coordinator for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce. "We think it’s important to help artists be in the best position to succeed financially as well as develop their craft."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Sean Kennedy, St. Petersburg Greenhouse

Florida Universities Rank Among Best For Patents, Innovation

Innovation continues to grow among Florida’s top research universities, as indicated by a recent global ranking of universities by the number of patents granted in 2013.

The University of South Florida (USF), University of Florida (UF) and University of Central Florida (UCF) were granted 239 patents all together. This puts the group ahead of other prestigious groups such as the research Triangle in North Carolina (Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and the Texas universities (the entire University of Texas system, Rice University and Texas A&M University), all of which have a longstanding tradition of high quality research and technology innovation.

Together, the Florida universities head the Florida High Tech Corridor Council,  an economic development initiative whose mission is to grow the state's high tech industry through research, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurship. The Corridor’s partnership involves over 25 organizations, 14 state and community colleges and 12 workforce boards.

"It’s great to be recognized by the National Academy, which is well more than 100 universities." says Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor Council President. "The report reflects the strength in our 23-county corridor region."

The report was produced by the Tampa-based National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association and recognizes the role that patents play in university research, innovation, technology and eventually workforce enhancement. The goal is eventually to commercialize the patents, thus creating companies and jobs surrounding the success of the products or services.

Berridge attributes the success to the leadership within each university and the emphasis placed on the importance of high quality research. "It represents not only the university but the professors who are doing the heavy lifting in generating the technologies through their input and that of their top students," says Berridge.

USF was ranked 12 overall, with 95 patents granted – up from 83 in 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor

USAA Expands To Brandon, Adds New Jobs In Hillsborough County

USAA broke ground recently on a new facility near the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Brandon. The facility will be a mirror image of its current operating center in New Tampa, with similar jobs and functions.

The growth is being driven by the company’s members -- military veterans and their families.

The company has been in Tampa for over 40 years, with its first operations beginning in the Westshore area. It has expanded since then to more than 2,500 employees in locations across Tampa.

"USAA as a whole is seeing growth everywhere," says Robert Hoyland, VP and general manager for USAA’s Tampa operations "We started as an insurance company and have expanded in the last 30 to 40 years to run the gamut of financial services."

In addition to insurance products, the company provides banking products, mutual funds, investments and financial planning.

As a result of the expansion, the company is hiring Member Contact Representatives, who will take incoming calls and reach out to members about products.

The new facility is scheduled to open in October, but hiring has already begun.

"Part of the expansion is to tap into the workforce here in Tampa," says Hoyland.  "We came here because we know there’s a great market for hiring financial services folks."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Robert Hoyland, USAA

AT&T Wireless Growth Spurs Hiring In Florida, 40 Jobs In Tampa Bay

AT&T is expanding its employee base across the State of Florida, with nearly 640 total openings.

The growth is fueled by an expansion of mobile services and an enhanced focus on customer service being offered through the company’s new Project Velocity IP (VIP). Project VIP is a $14 billion plan to invest in and expand the company’s wireless and wireline IP broadband networks. The investment is a result of increased customer demand for high-speed Internet access, enhanced TV services and mobile cloud services.

"We’re growing our mobile devices, and what we’re doing in stores," says Karen McAllister, spokesperson for AT&T. The recently opened store of the future in Tampa is an example of the new interactive, customer-focused shopping experience. "Our job growth is really fueled by being able to ensure that our customers have a great experience."

Current openings in Tampa Bay include Principal Database Developer and Database Programmer. Retail Sales Consultants and Manager positions are also available. In all, the company is looking to hire 40 retail employees in the Tampa Bay market, with more than half being newly created jobs. Currently there are 860 employees in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg.

"We’re looking for people that are looking to grow with the company and are excited about the future of mobile," says McAllister.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Karen McAllister, AT&T Florida
 

Florida Designer Selected To Attend National Summit

Missy Palasol loves to design: "I live it, I breathe it, I eat it."

Her portfolio includes boutique, high-end restaurants and shops to old warehouses converted into tenant spaces. She has worked in a diverse set of industries, from hospitality to medical.

Her diverse experience and passion for the work led her to be selected as one of 12 designers in the nation to participate in Cambria’s third annual Style Maker’s Summit in Minneapolis, MN.

The Summit brought together some of the most influential designers in the nation along with local Cambria representatives for an exclusive, behind the scenes experience with the latest of the company’s products. The designers met with the development team and provided opinions on what’s trending and the company’s direction. The group also learned about company operations. "It was quite something," says Palasol.

Palasol began her career in Philadelphia in 1997, receiving training in architecture and interior design. She now resides in the Orlando area, working as an Interior Design Associate at Baker Barrios, an architecture and interior design firm. She was recently promoted to Associate and hopes to continue to grow with the company, helping to make it even broader and more diverse.

"It’s an exciting time," notes Palasol. "It’s great to see the economy finally turning around. You can tell by how much work is coming in and who is hiring."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Missy Palasol, Baker Barrios

Young Chinese Artists Make U.S. Debut At 2 Tampa Bay Area Art Museums

An unprecedented look inside modern Chinese art of will be on display this summer in Tampa and St. Petersburg through a pioneering exhibit featuring 27 emerging artists from China.

"My Generation: Young Chinese Artists'' features work shown for the first time outside of China. The exhibit opens to the public at both the Tampa Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Pete on Saturday, June 7th. The exhibit also features a series of related lectures and performances, such as an exploration of the history of "Red Rock'' -- the Chinese rock scene and corresponding concert, another first to the Tampa Bay region.

Hand-picked and curated by Author Barbara Pollack, one of America's foremost authorities on Chinese art, the young artists have almost all grown up under their nation's one-child policy and tend toward subtlety where politics are concerned. Yet they express issues of alienation, self-definition, cynicism and rebellion though their work in variety of media. The environment, reaction to massive urban areas, the paradoxical market economy, the personal side of growing up as only children and the pressure for marriage and family despite sexual orientation are backdrop themes to much of the work.

The exhibit will ''introduce us to parts of Chinese culture that we know nothing about and I think people will be really surprised,'' says David Connelly, an MFA spokesperson.

"This exhibition represents a milestone in the life of this institution, and our partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg is an important step forward for the nature of regional partnerships,'' says Todd Smith, Executive Director of the Tampa Museum of Art, who originated the project and recently resigned to pursue another museum opportunity in California.

The collaboration between the two museums is an innovative approach that allows more art to be shown. For example, one of the more acclaimed artists in the show, Sun Xun, is creating a large installation specifically for the MFA, utilizing animation and drawings, which will take up an entire gallery.
 
At the same time, the concurrent approach cross-pollinates the region's art lovers. The museums are offering a $20 discounted combination ticket so that visitors can enjoy the full experience.

"We are hoping that with the outstanding innovative work in the show,'' museum patrons and art lovers will cross Tampa Bay to see both exhibits, says Connelly.
 
"My Generation: Young Chinese Artists,'' will be on view June 7 through Sept. 21, 2014. The exhibit will then travel to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for display later this year.

Writer: Kendra Langlie
Sources: David Connelly, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg
 

Google For Entrepreneurs Powers Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014

What makes Tampa's upcoming Startup Weekend distinctive? 

For one, Google for Entrepreneurs is backing the event. And new in 2014, the weekend will expand to include Youth and Maker events along with the core startup-driven competition.

Three years ago, Startup Weekend formed in Tampa as part of an international movement in more than 200 cities around the world. At the weekend-long, volunteer-led event, anyone is welcome to pitch an idea for a startup business. For the next 54 hours, teams form, vote for the top ideas, and dive in to all aspects of developing a fresh new product -- from coding to marketing to creating a working prototype. There are winners, and sometimes real-world businesses form as a result.

The winner of the third Startup Weekend Tampa Bay developed his proposal from a pain point he'd encountered upon arrival to the event. Seeking a more interactive, real-time way to engage with other attendees, Todd Goldberg pitched the product that would go on to win Tampa's 2012 Startup Weekend -- EXMO, now Eventjoy. The business, which provides fee free ticketing and organization for events, is now a Y-combinator backed Tampa Bay success story.

Wazinit, an app to help consumers identify food ingredients and allergens, has achieved notoriety of its own since winning Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2013. The beta-stage mobile application gained a place in Tampa Bay WaVE's First WaVE accelerator program, garnered almost $1,000 at crowd-sourcing festival OneSpark in Feb. 2014, and took a second place finish as a Top Tech creator at the event.

A similar standout startup could evolve from this July's Startup Weekend Tampa Bay. Don't consider yourself an expert, or even an experienced, techie? Co-organizer Michael LaPlante says that diversity amongst attendees will be a focus in 2014. Traditionally, the event caters to a tech-savvy crowd who already know about coding or creating a product.
 
"This year, we are really trying to target a different demographic and go outside of just technology,'' LaPlante explains. "We want all entrepreneurs to feel welcome to come pitch their ideas and have a life-changing experience.''

"You will be able to contribute, no matter what, if you participate,'' he says.

A weeklong event "focused around bringing the community and all the events together into a culmination of 'awesomeness' '' is also on the radar, LaPlante teases. This Startup Week concept is set to roll out in six core cities, including Tampa, according to Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde.
 
Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 will take place July 25-27 at the Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus. To register or volunteer, visit the Startup Weekend Tampa Bay 2014 website.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Michael LaPlante, Startup Weekend Tampa Bay

Ping Pong, Anyone? Urban Conga Wants You To Play In Downtown Tampa

Residents and visitors in downtown Tampa will soon have another reason to get social.

Ping pong tables will be installed in parks in downtown, starting with Lykes Gaslight.

The project is the latest from Urban Conga, a group of Tampa Bay creatives who use play to encourage the community to utilize urban spaces with interactive installations such as the Wall of Creativity at the recent Sunset Music Festival.

"We wanted to figure out a way to bring this idea of play in a more permanent way to the city of Tampa," says Ryan Swanson, Urban Conga co-founder.

The idea came about when Swanson backpacked around Europe and noticed ping pong tables everywhere in large cities like Berlin, Paris and Barcelona, as well as in U.S. cities like New York and Boston. He wondered why there are none in our local cities. After discovering how expensive and bulky typical public ping pong tables are, Swanson decided to design a table himself for a fraction of the price.

As an added benefit, local businesses will hold on to paddles and balls, driving people into their space. For a small deposit, people will rent the equipment and then receive their money back upon return.

"Bringing these tables to downtown will be a small but large impact on creating more street level activity in downtown Tampa," says Swanson.

Urban Conga recently received $1,000 from Awesome Tampa Bay to build the first tables.

"We really like this project because it’s big, fun and really creative," says Rafaela Amador, Dean of Awesomeness for Awesome Tampa Bay. "We like what Urgan Conga is trying to do. We want to support that kind of creative infrastructure in people in Tampa."

Plans are to install tables in downtown St. Petersburg after the Tampa tables are complete.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Rafaela Amador, Awesome Tampa Bay; Ryan Swanson, Urban Conga

Pinellas County Public Schools Teach STEM Skills Through Interactive Play

Elementary and middle school students in Pinellas County Public Schools participate in hands-on learning and experimentation with robots that teach not only STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) but business and communication skills as well.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Suncoast Credit Union Foundation, 48 fourth- and fifth-grade students at Leila Davis Elementary School in Clearwater participate in a STEM Academy after school. The students design and build robots that allow them to explore scientific concepts with a hands-on approach. They also learn entrepreneurship, presentation skills and public speaking.

The initiative is part of a wider effort that began in October of last year by Pinellas County Superintendent Michael Grego. The program is funded by grants as well as county taxes. In all, 63 STEM academies have been created in elementary and middle schools within the past year, engaging students in fourth through eighth grade. The goal is to have all elementary and middle schools participating within the next year.

Students at Leila Davis Elementary are currently creating soccer players that move using robotics. They’re also designing
an alligator that will allow them to learn about the motion of its jaw and formation of its teeth. They’ve even designed a drummer and learned about the way it moves its hands and connects to music. Once the LEGOs are designed, students can make modifications using a computer program that interfaces with the robotics.

The program is 30 weeks long and has received positive feedback from parents and teachers.

Students also participated in a STEM expo at University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Each of the 63 schools had project boards that displayed their STEM components and how they relate to real-world concepts. Students shared their successes, challenges and how they overcame them.

The county’s overall goal is to encourage students to select accelerated math and science courses in high school and then ultimately a career path in a STEM field. The school district is currently working with business partners to make sure students graduate with the skills in demand for jobs.

"We’re trying to help fill a gap and provide our students with multiple opportunities to apply for different jobs and be competitive," says Laura Spence, STEM Coordinator for Pinellas County Schools.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Laura Spence, Pinellas County Schools

Lakeland Art Installation Honors Veterans, Public Servants

A new public art installation in Lakeland pays tribute to veterans, police, firefighters and emergency responders.

The piece is a collaboration among Platform Art, Polk County Veterans Council and Lakeland youth.

Platform Art worked with Polk County Public Schools to provide workshops for high school teachers to help them incorporate 3D curriculum into their classrooms. They then held a design challenge, asking students to create a sculpture that represents public agencies using a one foot square footprint. Over 60 students responded to the challenge.

The winner was Lake Region High School senior Maria Vazquez, whose sculpture was then fabricated on a larger scale in glass and steel by regional artist Tom Monaco. The final piece consists of two vertical slabs of steel with images of first a couple looking at each other and then a baby behind them. A glass plate in front is engraved with the poem "Honor" by William McGehee, which wraps around a silhouette image of a soldier.

"You’re not only looking at a public servant, but at the reasons they do their job – their family, children," says Cynthia Haffey, executive director for Platform Art and graduate of the University of South Florida.

Vasquez first got the inspiration for the sculpture when she came across McGehee’s poem. After further research, Platform Art realized the poem was written while McGehee was in high school, and that he is currently on his second deployment in Afghanistan. He recorded himself reading the poem, which is incorporated into the display.

Once Vasquez’s design was selected, she met with Monaco and talked about how the public could interact with the piece and how people could approach it physically and visually.

"It was a great learning process for her," says Haffey. "She was stunned at the amount of thoughtful consideration you have to put into a work of art when doing something for the general public."

Vasquez is the daughter of immigrants living in Polk County. After graduating, she will attend Polk State College and then plans to further her education at a design school.

Platform Art is a nonprofit organization in Polk County that focuses on visual arts, leaning toward public art. The project is the first in a series of three with a similar theme and purpose. It will be displayed in City Hall for the summer, and will then be installed in Veterans Park. Eventually, the hope is for this and other sculptures in the series to tour the Tampa Bay region and potentially the State.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Cynthia Haffey, Platform Art

Hillsborough County Pledges $1M To New Manufacturing Academy, Apprenticeship Program

The need for talented manufacturing workers has led Hillsborough County to pledge $1 million toward resolving the local "skills gap.''

A new Manufacturing Academy and Apprenticeship/Internship Program (MAAIP) is a meant to be a "three-pronged approach'' to closing this gap and promoting manufacturing as a viable career path for young workers. The MAAIP also plans to place special emphasis on marketing to students, veterans, women, minorities and underserved communities.

The $1 million in seed money will be split between the Manufacturing Academy; an Apprenticeship and Internship Incentive Program; and marketing of the two to potential private sector partners, students and their families. $350,000 is allocated to CareerSource Tampa Bay for execution of the program's initiatives.

"This is a robust, proactive step by our Board of County Commissioners,'' says Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County Economic Development Director.

The Manufacturing Academy will highlight manufacturing as a viable career path for middle and high school students and military veterans. Students who complete the Manufacturing Academy will be credentialed through the Manufacturing Skills Standard Council's Certified Production Technician (CPT) certification.

The two-year program fills a void, providing a "continuum" of seamless training between educational institutions and employers. MAAIP will package together existing resources through Hillsborough County Public Schools and Hillsborough Community College into new training opportunities for students of many ages. This pool will then serve as a resource for companies who wish to participate in the program to recruit new talent.

Because apprenticeship and internship programs can be costly, many companies do not have these programs in place. $400,000 has been allocated for Manufacturing and Internship Incentives. This aspect of the program aims to bring together students participating in the Manufacturing Academy with the local businesses that can provide on-the-job-training and real-world experience.

CareerSource Tampa Bay is tasked with the job of finding and enrolling manufacturers to participate in the program.

Participating companies must be for-profit manufacturing businesses located in Hillsborough County. They will be required to pay the apprentice or intern a minimum wage equivalent to the average entry-level wage for the industry. A maximum benefit of $8,000 per year per internship or apprenticeship may be paid. Once performance requirements are met, the program will reimburse the company for wages paid to the Manufacturing Academy apprentice or intern.
 
CareerSource Tampa Bay will aim to raise awareness and engagement of MAAIP to potential students and their families through promotional efforts and marketing outreach, including developing and launching a website to promote the manufacturing industry in Hillsborough County. The website will offer career-building resources like fact sheets, success stories, quick links, videos of local manufacturers, lesson plans and workbooks, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, and more.
 
The program will be administered by the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department for the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

The MAAIP is a "team effort,'' Kimball says. It allows the BOCC "to support the manufacturing industry in Hillsborough County by leveraging our existing partner assets to fill the talent pipeline and engage manufacturers in the development of meaningful experiences for students.''

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Lindsey Kimball, Hillsborough County government

St. Joseph's Hospital-North Hosts Tampa's First Robotic-Assisted, Single-Site Hysterectomy

A physician at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North is the first in Tampa to perform a relatively new, innovative option for a hysterectomy.

Dr. Pamela Twitty, OBGYN at The Women’s Group, says she is happy to be the first physician in Tampa to perform a robotic-assisted single site-hysterectomy.  Hysterectomies are the second most common surgery performed in America on women and are often used to treat serious conditions such as endometriosis, excessive bleeding or fibroids.

In a traditional hysterectomy, a doctor makes a five- to seven-inch incision, leaving a noticeable scar and resulting in an average of one to two months or recovery time. The new procedure, called the da Vinci robotic-assisted single site surgery, makes a single, one inch incision. The results are less pain and scarring, a shortened hospital stay and quicker return to normal activities.

A unique feature of the robotic assistance is the control provided to the physician. The doctor can control the surgical instruments using a console in the operating room, eliminating the need to coordinate one or more assistants to help with instrumentation.  

Robotic-assisted surgery technology has been used for almost 10 years and started with general surgeons for gall bladder surgery. It has become an option for gynecological surgeries within the past two years. What’s innovative about the da Vinci procedure is the single incision, allowing for minimal scarring and a quicker recovery.

"I’ve been a big fan for as long as I’ve been in medicine of staying innovative and using safe and new technologies," says Dr. Twitty. "I’m truly thrilled that it’s an option we can offer now."

The procedure can be used for other gynecological surgeries such as on the fallopian tubes or ovaries. As advancements continue, it could expand to other areas of general medicine.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Dr. Pamela Twitty, The Woman's Group

Florida Music Students Win Scholarships For Piano Performances

Six young pianists from around Florida were awarded a total of $22,500 in scholarship and prize money in the 2014 Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota Competition for Piano. 

Ten pianists made it to the final stage of the three-round competition in late March, which was judged by Julian Martin of the Juliard School; Robert Sherman, an award-winning radio broadcaster, music critic and educator; and acclaimed Pianist Derek Han.

Three pianists from the Scholarship Level (ages 14-19) received a total of $7,500 in scholarships. Priscilla Navarro, 19, of Ft. Myers was awarded the first prize Lee & Jerry Ross Scholarship of $3,000. Second-place Prize Winner Alvin Xue, 15, of Wellington, received $2,500 in prize money; and Third-place Winner Tiffany Chen, 16, of West Palm Beach received $2,000. 

In the Performance Level (ages 20-25), Heqing Huang, 20, of Boca Raton was awarded the first place Virginia B. Toulmin Award, amounting to $6,000. Second-place Winner Emily Charlson, 23, Tallahassee, received $5,000, and Third-place Winner Dan Sato, 25, Miami, was awarded $4,000. 

Endowments from private donors and money raised by Friends of the Artist Series organization provide the scholarship funding for the Artist Series Competition. 

The Artist Series Concerts Competition was established by Artistic Director Lee Dougherty Ross in 2002. Under the guidance of Coordinator Joy McIntyre, Professor Emerita of Music at Boston University, the competition grew to the statewide level in 2007. Since 2007, McIntyre says the competition has run on a multi-disciplinary cycle that annually celebrates top pianists, string musicians and vocalists.

“I applaud the Artist Series and its known leaders, Lee Dougherty Ross and Executive Director John Fisher. They have done really marvelous things with it. …  They are investing money in the future of classical music by supporting these young musicians,” McIntyre says. 

McIntyre adds that the city of Sarasota itself provides a unique cultural environment that fosters young musicians and artists.

“It’s a cultural mecca, if you will, where all kinds of things are going on. People of all levels of appreciation, whether it’s orchestra or theatre or art; classical or jazz music -- or the circus, of course -- are active supporters of the arts. Sarasota is where it’s at in terms of lively cultural life.”

Writer: Jessi Smith
Source: Joy McIntyre, Artist Concert Series Competition Coordinator
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