All posts by Donna Smith

Campus Connections Concert Promises the Sounds of STEM

community connections concert

St. Petersburg College’s Wind Ensembles will present an evening of free music featuring science and technology themes at this semester’s Campus Connections Concert: Community Concert Band and Community Wind Symphony. This event is designed to bring awareness of happenings and opportunities in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) at SPC, including at our new Bay Pines STEM Center Campus. 

The Community Concert Band, directed by Nathan Muehl, is actually two concert bands that are comprised of SPC students and community members. The ensembles typically combine for concerts twice per semester, sharing music with an audience within four themes that promote collaboration and community engagement:  The Tribute Concerts honor a member of the community, the Campus Connections Concerts bring awareness of happenings and opportunities of an SPC department, the High School Connections Concerts involve partnering with a local high school and performing a joint concert hosted at the High School campus, and finally, the Community Connections concerts identify a local cause or charity and bring awareness of goodwill and opportunity.

The STEM show’s music will include several aquatic-themed works that represent the lagoon and Intracoastal Waterway that the SPC Bay Pines campus overlooks. The concert will also feature pieces that blend wind ensemble with computer technology, including utilization of Super Collider music programing language. Interactive demonstrations in virtual reality and 3-D printing will take place before and after the concert.  

The concert will take place in downtown St. Petersburg at the Palladium, 253 5th Ave N, St. Petersburg, on Thursday, March 7 at 7 p.m.  

For more information, call 727-341-4360. If you are looking to further your music journey via ensemble participation, or if you have ideas for future SPC Tribute, Campus Connections, High School Connections, or Community Connections themes, please contact ensemble director Nathan Muehl at

Rebecca Penneys to Host Master Class

Rebecca Penneys

Renowned pianist Rebecca Penneys will teach a free master class in piano on Saturday, March 9 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the St. Petersburg College Music Center on the Gibbs campus, 6605 5th Avenue N, St. Petersburg. This event is open to the public.

Penneys is Professor Emerita of Piano at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. She is a Steinway Artist, Artist-in-Residence at SPC and Courtesy Steinway Artist in Residence at USF.

In the summertime, she leads the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival, a three-week international festival that is tuition-free for all and held every July at USF Tampa. It is for serious aspiring college-aged pianists between the ages of 18 and 30 from all over the world. RPPF-Mini, also tuition-free and at USF, is a Boot Camp focusing on strategies in career development for pianists aged 21-31. All RPPF events are supported by her non-profit organization, Rebecca Penneys Friends of Piano.

A renowned pedagogue, Penneys has received extensive recognition for her ability to teach keyboard technique (Motion and Emotion) that allows pianists to achieve individual performance goals without physical strain or injury. She is delighted to hear students and teachers of all ages and levels in performance and is also happy to have discussions and answer questions without performance. Auditors are welcome.

Please email Penneys directly for questions or to reserve a time in this event at For more information, call 727-341-4360.


SPC kicks off MLK Day of Service with actor Lamman Rucker at the Palladium

Lamman Rucker stars in Dream For America

Actor Lamman Rucker, who performs in the OWN network series, Greenleaf, will be coming to St. Petersburg to star in the new show, DREAM FOR AMERICA, which will be produced at the Palladium at St. Petersburg College on Jan. 13 in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The show will celebrate the accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement over the last 50 years and engage the community in thinking about two questions, “How far have we come?” and “What Can I do to Realize the Dream? The production will be narrated by Florida Sen. Darryl Rouson.

Performances are FREE but require tickets, which are available online (tickets held at Will Call) and at the Box Office. (Limit of 8 tickets per person.)

Co-starring in DREAM FOR AMERICA is Alex Harris, well known locally for his soulful singing and recent hit show at the Palladium, Got Soul. Harris is also the co-founder and CEO of the Arts Conservatory for Teens.

Aware that progress toward an American Dream that is available to all depends on the commitment and passion of young people, DREAM FOR AMERICA will showcase not only students who are enrolled in the Arts Conservatory for Teens but also some of the most talented actors, singers and musicians in the Bay Area.

The Sessions Panel Advises SPC MIRA Students

The Sessions Panel

St. Petersburg College’s Music Industry Recording Arts program welcomed The Sessions panel to The Palladium on Tuesday, Feb. 27 to speak to students, staff and the community about what it takes –besides musical talent – to make it in the music business.

The Sessions at MIRA

The Sessions is an interactive presentation that sharpens the business skills of aspiring artists through discussion of topics such as contract negotiations, entertainment law, marketing, self-promotion, social media and artist relations.

The Sessions panel consisted of:

• Tampa-based entertainment attorney Paul Quin
• Saturday Night Live band vocalist and musicologist Christine Ohlman
• Rick Drumm, President of Traction Business Coaching
• Carlos Guzman, a production and tour manager
• Ray Luzier, drummer for Korn
• Bobby Rossi, Executive Vice President of Entertainment Ruth Eckerd Hall, Capitol Theatre & Ruth Eckerd on the Road
• Twenty-two-time Grammy winner, NEA Jazz Master and 2017 Downbeat Readers’ Poll Artist of the Year Chick Corea

Armando Roldan is a Jazz Performance and Music Education major at SPC. Roldan, a bass player, got the opportunity to jam onstage during the event.

“It was nice to support some of the high school musicians and play with instrumentalists of all levels,” he said.

Roldan said the event was beneficial to him on many levels.

“As a working musician, I sometimes get lost in the creativity and forget that I am my “production team” as well,” he said. With the added knowledge, I have already booked performances at venues I didn’t think I could.”

Roldan said seeing Corea perform with his wife, Gayle Moran, then actually meeting him, was incredible.

“After hearing his insider tricks, it was amazing to have the opportunity to speak with him backstage and see how humble he is as a person, even though his is one of the most influential living jazz artists.”

Blake Herrick, originally from Minneapolis, came to Mira after a stint in corporate America. He will finish the MIRA program in May, with an emphasis on Music Composition.

“When you have people from the industry speaking from experience, it’s so valuable. Any insight I can get from their journey is welcome knowledge,” he said.

Herrick is also a personal trainer, and he said the knowledge he has gained from the MIRA program is helpful even outside the music industry.

“All the skills I’ve learned in the MIRA program are applicable to entrepreneurship in any form.”

Derrell Parrot will finish the MIRA program in May with a focus in Music Production. She was looking for tips on how to get a job. She said she found The Sessions to be very informative.

“It was nice to get support and knowledge from industry experts,” Parrot said. “I liked hearing from Christine Olman, because I felt it was important for me to hear from a woman, especially being in a male-dominated field of Music Production.”

Parrot was grateful to learn about things that she found relevant to her own career, including social media, branding and how to set goals.

“I just want to say thank you to (event organizer) Rosaria Pipitone and SPC for allowing this kind of workshop for the students,” Parrot said.

St. Petersburg College Music Students Honored at Symposium

St. Petersburg College music students

Seventeen St. Petersburg College music students joined over 300 of their peers from Florida State Colleges at the 2018 Florida College System Activities Association’s Winter Music Symposium. Five of them were recognized as category winners and honorable mentions in the Student Artist Competition.

The annual event was hosted at Jacksonville University from January 25 to 27. SPC Professors Nathan Muehl, Director of SPC Bands and Dr. Robert Williams, Director of SPC Chorus, attended the event with the students. Dr. Susan Robinson served as piano accompanist. In addition to performing in chorus, symphonic band, orchestra, and jazz ensembles, several SPC attendees competed in the Student Artist Competition. The five competition winners performed their solo works on a Friday evening concert and each received a $1,000 scholarship that is honored at all state universities and some private ones.

Muehl said the symposium is an opportunity for students to network and collaborate.

“They engage in ensemble rehearsals and masterclasses with university professors and get a sense of the bachelor level music offerings at the host institution,” Muehl said. “A good portion of our students make a real connection with whichever university hosts the symposium that particular year, and it often goes to the top of their list of university considerations.”

The SPC winners were:

Gina Spano – Piano category winner
Ashlee Allaire – Percussion category winner
Bo Garrard – Woodwind category honorable mention
Charles Tsai – Male Voice category honorable mention
Jacob Fox – Brass category honorable mention

Competitors each prepared over 12 minutes of music of various styles. Winners were invited to perform one piece at the Friday evening concert. Gina Spano performed Feux d’artifice by Claude Debussy, and Ashlee Allaire performed the Allemande from the E minor Lute Suite on Marimba by J.S. Bach.

According to Muehl, being recognized at the competition is a great honor that rewards musicianship, technique and performance ability. Since all AA Music majors take weekly lessons with SPC professors who specialize in their musical area, all of that hard work culminates at the competition.

“The FCSAA Symposium is one step on a long journey of experiences towards achievement of undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, and ultimately, careers in teaching and performing,” Muehl said.

St. Petersburg College Student Wins Innovation Award

Vincent Demor Innovation Award Winner

Vincent Demor was only six when, while accompanying his mother to pick his sister up from violin lessons, a music teacher saw him admiring an accordion. The teacher taught him to play a song on it, and then loaned the instrument to Demor to play around with for a while. His neighbor, an accomplished accordion player, began working with him and teaching him. Demor is now in his third semester in St. Petersburg College’s Music Industry Recording Arts program, and he recently won the distinguished 2018 National Association of Music Merchants President’s Innovation Award.

MIRA instructor Jeff Donovick, whom Demor says has offered him a lot of assistance both inside and outside the classroom, including help with figuring out his schedule and career path, says Demor’s dedication and passion for learning and playing make him more than worthy of the award.

“Vince carries this energy into all his endeavors and into successful career growth, Donovick said. “Vince is a scholar, a strong leader in his academic community, and also a hard worker and compelling musician.”

Demor said that though he moved around and lived in different states, he always found teachers wherever he went. It was one of those connections who urged him to apply for the NAMM award, so he gave it a shot. Taking that chance paid off when Demor was selected from entries from across the nation. According to the NAMM announcement, the winner exemplifies a commitment to the music industry and shows a strong aptitude for business leadership and innovation in the music industry. He will represent SPC at the NAMM show in Anaheim, CA January 25-28, and also attend sessions at the conference.

“I was shocked and excited when I found out I had won,” Demor said. “My instructors were also really excited. They thought it was great that I could go and bring back what I saw there.”

Demor came to SPC after moving to Florida with family. He also began looking for music programs, and after touring the MIRA program in 2016, he made his decision and began taking classes in Spring 2017.

“I love it here,” Demor said of SPC. “The music faculty is very talented and experienced. It’s great that they dedicate themselves to teaching us.”

Donovick said Demor has a demonstrated ability for success in the music industry.

“Vince is an active and focused participant in the study and performance of music, with careful attention to detail and self-motivation,” Donovick said. “His intuitive ability to select quality music that engages all audiences is evident when he picks up his accordion to play. Whether for an auditorium, festival, or for a small group, listeners stop and pay attention, their faces light up, and they are drawn in and transported by his evocative playing.”

Demor hopes to use his degree from St. Petersburg College to work in music production, and also hopes this award will help him get there.

“I really hope I make connections at NAMM that will help me achieve my goals,” he said.

Helios Jazz Orchestra to Perform

Helios Jazz Orchestra

St. Petersburg College hosts a lot of talent among its staff and students, and the SPC family can enjoy some of that talent when the Helios Jazz Orchestra performs on Nov. 21 at the Palladium Side Door Theater.

Professor David Manson, a trombone composer and soloist, founded SPC’s Helios Jazz Orchestra back in 2008 as an evening jazz band course. The 18-member band plays big band jazz and performs all over the Tampa Bay area.

“I was pleasantly surprised when a large number of top jazz artists from the area came to the first rehearsal,” Manson said. “Since then, the group has steadily been active in concerts, festivals and other special events.”

One notable gig for the group is their performance at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday, a 40-year event that hosts talented artists who play a wide range of jazz. Helios played alongside Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, John Clearly and Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox.

“The band had a great performance,” Manson said. “They tackled a wide range of styles, from Latin jazz to Great American Songbook standards. Our singer, Jamie Perlow, was outstanding. She reminded listeners that style, projection and clearly understood lyrics are so important.”

Manson is director of the St. Petersburg Jazz Festival, an annual event that will be held again in February, 2018. The Festival features Florida jazz artists, and Helios will perform with singers Whitney James and Chuck Wansley. Manson said it is impossible to compensate such a large group at the level that its members deserve, but they aren’t in it for the money.

“They participate because they love the music. It’s a joy to direct, compose and arrange for this ensemble,” Manson said.

The next opportunity for the general public to catch a performance by the group will be  at the Palladium Side Door Theater on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. with singer Kirsten Joyer.

Schenecker Donation Funds Art Scholarships

Photo of Colonel Parker Schenecker

St. Petersburg College welcomed Pinellas County Schools art teachers on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017 for a districtwide training, where they attended sessions taught by SPC, University of South Florida, and University of Florida art professors. They were also treated to the good news of an art scholarship opportunity for their students, thanks to a generous donation from Col. Parker Schenecker, in memory of his daughter, Calyx Schenecker.

Schenecker’s daughter, 16, along with his son Beau, 13, died tragically in January 2011. He wanted to honor their lives, and the art scholarship seemed perfect because Calyx was a talented visual artist.

“It became apparent that I needed to make a promise,” Schenecker told the rapt crowd of art teachers at the Clearwater Campus. “I want to focus the rest of my life on how my children lived – not how they died.”

Schenecker connected with Pinellas County Schools Visual Arts Supervisor Sue Castleman with a desire to make a donation. Together with SPC’s Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts Jonathan Steele, Humanities and Fine Arts Chair Jonathan Barnes, and the SPC Foundation’s Executive Director Frances Neu, they decided to rename the juried high school art show held at SPC for many years the Calyx Schenecker Art Infinitum. The juried event invites high school students from all over Pinellas County to submit their artwork for judging and exhibition at the Clearwater Campus Art Gallery. The top three winners receive scholarships to SPC. The first art scholarships were awarded in May 2017.

“Col. Schenecker’s generous donation is a seed that will increase in the future and can be added to,” Steele said. “He upped the game and increased the opportunities we can offer students.”

The donation comes from the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund, which was established in 2011 by their father with contributions from family, friends, and the community to ensure the children’s legacy by providing opportunities for deserving Tampa Bay area students in the areas of leadership, athletics, culinary training, and visual arts – all of which reflect the Schenecker children’s interests and passions.

Schenecker, who received a standing ovation from the audience, said he realized the extent of his daughter’s love for art after going into her room after she died and finding a mural she’d intended to paint sketched out on the wall.

“That day, I got it,” he said. “It’s all about how we love and take care of our children. And it’s all about making sure the next generation is better than us.”

Creative Loafing features SPC MIRA students

Creative Loafing featues MIRA students at Jazz Holiday

Creative Loafing gave SPC MIRA (Music Industry Recording Arts) students Derell Parrott, Keturah Allyson, Andrey Gleis and Andrew Holnesss some attention for their volunteer work at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Oct. 13-16.

Creative Loafing article on Jazz Holiday

In Ray Roa’s Oct. 10 Creative Loafing article,  the four St. Petersburg College MIRA students  were featured for their volunteer work at the Jazz Holiday festival.

Clearwater Jazz Foundation CEO Steve Weinberger said he enjoyed working on the event with the students, two of whom found job opportunities there.

“It is extremely rewarding to watch the students gain valuable contacts and even job opportunities,” Weinberger said.

Check out the story here.

MIRA students volunteer for Recycled Tunes

SPC MIRA students are also volunteering to help the Gasparilla Music Foundation promote Recycled Tunes, a county-wide effort to gather gently-used musical instruments for Pinellas County students in need.

Since 2013, SPC students have also volunteered at the Gasparilla Music Festival in downtown Tampa. It is this collaboration that led to the current partnership between SPC and the Foundation with the Recycled Tunes project.

Learn more about Recycled Tunes and how you can donate instruments for local music students.

SPC’s MIRA program prepares students for careers in music

St. Petersburg College’s Music Industry Recording Arts program helps aspiring artists learn real-world skills to become an arts and entertainment technology experts.

The program offers a well-rounded, technology-based educational experience to student musicians, composers, producers, DJs, live-sound reinforcement enthusiasts, broadcast audio engineers, and post-production technologists. MIRA classes emphasize creative processes, technical training, business practices and entrepreneurial skills in a collaborative environment.

MIRA A.S. Degree

The MIRA Associate in Science degree offers a well-rounded, technology-based education to student musicians, composers, producers, DJs, live-sound reinforcement enthusiasts, broadcast audio engineers and post-production technologists.

Subplans and suggestions for course progression include:

  • Production
  • Artist with Composition Focus
  • Artist with Performance Focus

MIRA students open show for Young the Giant

Photo of Miroux band members

Opening on the big stage for Young the Giant was a dream come true for Miroux band members Jonah Hollander and Natalie DePergola. Students in SPC’s Music Industry and Recording Arts program, the band kicked off the 97X Backyard BBQ show in downtown St. Petersburg on May 28.

Meeting Young the Giant

The gig came to be after the group’s performance won the Ferg’s Live competition, which secured the 97X show for the young band. DePergola said she was a big fan of the other bands there, and Miroux had the chance to meet them and make some connections.

“It was crazy,” she said. “We met the other bands and even swapped phone numbers with Young the Giant. It was a super-cool experience.”

DePergola, who was previously featured in a story on this blog, is a dual-enrolled senior in the Florida Virtual School and SPC’s MIRA program. She is also an artist with the Zildjian cymbal company and ddrum drum company and a finalist in Drum! magazine’s “Hit Like a Girl” international competition.

Hollander is an incoming MIRA student and a graduating senior from Lakewood High School, where he has been a bassist in the school jazz ensemble, which was recently named grand champion at the Crescent City Jazz Festival in New Orleans, where Hollander also won the award for top improviser.

Both students also participated in the 2015 GRAMMY Museum Revolution project at Ruth Eckerd Hall, an invitation-only program that offers creative young musicians a chance to engage in musical discourse and performance with other talented youth. The students learn about music history, theory and composition, and they also enjoy one-on-one mentoring sessions with GRAMMY nominees and/or winners, and form ensembles with their fellow classmates.

MIRA Department Chair Patrick Hernly said that SPC keeps a close relationship with Pinellas County Schools.

“MIRA assists PCS with curriculum design related to commercial music and music technology,” Hernly said. “It’s a nice symbiosis because it enables us to do good community outreach work, but then it also is a good recruitment tool.”

DePergola, who just finished her first year in the MIRA program, said she has been learning music theory and new instruments.

“I love it at SPC,” she said. “I’ve been learning from a lot of new teachers, and it’s really helping me grow as a better musician.”