Patel Conservatory, Tampa Prep: 2 Great Talents Will Dance, Sing, Act Together

The Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts and Tampa Preparatory School have been brewing up a partnership that will benefit students and community members alike.

Starting later this month, the Patel Conservatory will offer the Patel Conservatory at Tampa Preparatory as an extended campus situated onsite at Tampa Preparatory School. Instructors from the Patel Conservatory will teach dance to Tampa Preparatory students as part of their graded curriculum. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in the Patel Conservatory outreach experiences, including workshops and master classes. Selected classes will be available to the public.

"It's such a perfect win-win situation," says Wendy Leigh, vice president of education at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center). "We both have similar visions of the synergy we can achieve."

The collaboration begins with dance and the students at Tampa Prep will have guidance from an acclaimed dance instructor. Patel Conservatory recently hired Peter Stark as the dance chair for the department. Stark was formerly with the Orlando Ballet School, which has historically been voted the best school in the nation under Stark's direction.

The relationship between the two schools began years ago through informal meet and greets, and "by working that six degrees of separation."

"That's when great things happen. When you have a small dedicated group that's working on something, having great communication back and forth, and dreaming big," says Kevin Plummer, head of Tampa Preparatory. "We had a group of people that really believe that the arts are an asset and an enhancement and definer of humanity. And that's a great place to be."

In December 2009, the two schools started to identify resources that could be shared and could enhance the other institution. "We started to dream big about education and we started to talk about what was possible for kids in Tampa," says Plummer. "We said that we had to develop a program that can be a model that can grow."

Plummer shared that during one of their conversations, they talked about the potential for having a performance with dance, music, acting, and, if possible, at every high school in Hillsborough County.

Students at Tampa Prep begin school on Aug. 19, 2010. An announcement will go out the week prior informing families of the strategic partnership.

"We're building for the future, not just for this year. There's some real opportunities here for the students to be exposed to some of the best dancers in the country, actors, best musicians. It's a chance for the professionals at our school to work with the professionals across the river," says Plummer.

Writer: Nancy Vaughn
Source: Wendy Leigh, Patel Conservatory; Kevin Plummer, Tampa Prep
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