Project Description

February 19, 2020

Pinellas County Center for the Arts
is Training Professional Artists

. . .

This month’s Guest Editor, Bob Devin Jones, wants to celebrate Arts Education. He suggested that the Arts Coast Journal ask what kinds of arts careers the gifted graduates of Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School are building. 

PCCA’s teachers were glad to share some of the many students that they’re proud of. The range of amazing experiences these Pinellas graduates are having is both impressive, and moving. Not many people will tell you that high school shaped their lives – and in a good way. But visit the websites we’ve included, read the bios of these artists and you’ll see, as we did, that time and time again professional actors, dancers, musicians, theatre technicians and visual artists credit Pinellas County Center for the Arts for giving them the training they needed to create a career in the arts. 

If you’re not familiar with PCCA, it’s a public high school that serves Pinellas County as an arts magnet program. Many students get up before dawn to ride a bus across the county to study there, and stay late for practice and rehearsals.  

As ever, we’re reminded to be grateful for teachers who share their skills and inspire students to forge a brave path in the world. And we’re reminded that when you see amazing artists working here, working around the country and around the world, a lot of them grew up here in Pinellas County. 

Josh Landress
Master Brass Technician

In 2003, Josh embarked upon a custom project for Grammy-winning horn player Asdru Sierra of Ozomatli to make a truly special trumpet. Combining experimentation, the implementation of non-traditional designs and old world craftsmanship, Josh discovered the formula for a superior instrument. He runs J. Landress Brass LLC in Manhattan.

jlandressbrass.com

from Ann Adair, Master of Music
Music Theory, Chamber Music, Academic Team
Pinellas County Center for the Arts

Michael Lynche

Billboard-charting R&B singer “combining the styles of Donny Hathaway, Luther Vandross, Al Green and Sam Cooke.” American Idol finalist.

facebook.com/MichaelLyncheOfficial

wikipedia.org/Michael_Lynche

. . .

Kaitlyn Resler

Graduated from Juilliard. French Horn player in the Florida Orchestra. Performed in Broadway’s Wicked, with American Ballet Theatre and the American Symphony, and in music videos with Grammy-winning pop artist, Lorde. Kaitlyn co-founded eGALitarian, an energetic young female brass ensemble made up of women devoted to sharing the works of female composers of today – as well as ones that have been long overlooked.

Tampa Bay Times feature

Washington DC feature

. . .

from Derek Weston
Program Director
and Assistant Principal

Theater Tech. .

. . .

Jason Brass
Served as Head of Wardrobe at Kooza by Cirque du Soleil, also worked on Cirque du Soleil’s shows , Zed, La Nouba and Corteo.

Tampa Bay Times feature

. . .

Alana Clapp
General Stage Manager of Mystere by Cirque du Soleil
Also guest lecturer at the College of Southern Nevada, advisory panel member for the Stage Craft Institute of Las Vegas and mentor with the United States Insitute for Theatre Technology.

“At the End of the Day It’s a Circus”

. . .

Jonah Free
Special Effects and
Pyrotechnic Technician

“My passion is telling stories to live audiences. By placing a personal emphasis on both high-quality execution of story production, and the greatest possible audience interactions, I aim to create experiences that will remain in the hearts and minds of our crowds forever.”

LinkedIn

. . .

Clark Gaesser
Lighting and Sound Designer

LinkedIn

. . .

Susie Knowles
Wig Staff at the
Metropolitan Opera NYC
Studied Wig and Makeup at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, worked at The Juilliard School, Stagedoor Manor and Williamstown Theatre Festival.

metopera.org

Cynthia Rockwell
Area Manager for Costuming, Walt Disney World

LinkedIn

. . .

Brian Schrader
Production and Stage Manager

stageclick.com

. . .

Barry Steele
Lighting Design, Video Design
and Scenic Design
Nashville Opera, Syracuse Opera, New Jersey Opera, Battery Dance Company, Des Moines Metro Opera, Madison Opera and more.

steelelight.com

Lighting by Barry Steele 

. . .

Emily Wilson
Costume Designer

WUSF News feature

emilystylist.com

. . .

from Siobhan Archard
Design Technology Chair

You’ll see Academy of Ballet Arts founder and longtime PCCA Dance teacher Suzanne Pomerantzeff mentioned by name on many dancers’ websites.

You can listen to “Ms. P” talk about teaching dance on Arts In, the Creative Pinellas podcast

photo by Tom Kramer

So many wonderful visual artists have graduated from Pinellas County for the Arts.

You’ll see several in this PDF prepared by PCCA’s Visual Art instructors – featuring Michael Vasquez, Erik Jones, Tes One, Derek Donnelly, Kati Lacker and Laura Spencer

. . .

from Stephanie McKee
Visual Art Faculty

A number of Alumni from the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School have gone on to enjoy a successful career in theatre, film, TV and written media. Some highlights:

Anthony Fuller
Toured the world as The Genie in Aladdin.

. . .

Justin Hires
Actor in such movies as 21 Jump Street and Stomp the Yard, he’s most recently been seen in the television shows Rush Hour and MacGyver.

IMDB page

Justin Hires as Detective Carter on the CBS series RUSH HOUR scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Justin Stephens/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. ©2015 WBEI. All rights reserved.

. . .

Michelle Dowdy
Played Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray for two years on Broadway and currently touring in Les Miserables. Her album, A Brass Act, is a tribute to her favorite ‘50s and ’60s big band divas, recorded with a seven-piece brass band.

michelledowdy.com

. . .

Sarah Gerard
Was briefly a theatre major but then switched to music, and is now a critically-acclaimed novelist and essayist – she wrote Binary Star (a best-book-of-the-year at NPR, Vanity Fair and Buzzfeed) and Sunshine State (New York Times Editors’ Choice and finalist for the Southern Book Prize). 

sarah-gerard.com

.. . .

Alex Jennings
Has appeared for the last six seasons on the television show The Goldbergs.

St Pete Catalyst feature

IMDB page

.. . .

Blaine Krauss
Played Lola in Kinky Boots on Broadway, as well as roles in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 and The Cher Show. He played Simba in a national tour of The Lion King and played a recurring role in the television show Pose.

.. . .

Jamieson Lindenburg
Performed for several years as a soloist for Cirque du Soleil.

Read Lindenburg on training and rehearsals as a singer in the
Cirque du Soleil show Varekai

. . .

William J. Stribling
Engaged to Alex Jennings. Award-winning filmmaker whose movies include Lies I Told My Little Sister, Bear With Us (starring Cheyenne Jackson) and The Speed of Time.

IMDB page

. . . . .

Ephraim Sykes
Was a dance major and has gone on to roles on both television and Broadway.  His most recent role in Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (with book by Dominique Morisseau, whose play Skeleton Crew is at American Stage through February 23), won him a Tony nomination. Sykes is now slated to play Michael Jackson in MJ, the Broadway musical about the singer’s life.

. . .

from Keven Renken
Theatre Department Chairman

You can hear painter and muralist Carrie Jadus talk glowingly about her time at Pinellas County Center for the Arts on Arts In, the Creative Pinellas podcast

I am Patricia Paige Parks, the PCCA Dance Department Chair. I have taught and directed at PCCA for 27 years and trained some incredible dancers. The department’s graduates continue to demonstrate the department’s vision of continued education through college and professional experience.

Many graduates have returned to teach as guest artists and adjunct faculty such as Helen French, Kelly King, Marquis Floyd and Jeff Wolf, just to name a few.

This is just a partial list of dancers working in major companies and in dance-related health fields which serve performing artists.

. . . 

Gretel Batista, dance major, graduated in 2012. Currently dances with the Houston Ballet and Dance Alive National Ballet. Born in La Habana, Cuba, she began classical training at the National Ballet School of Cuba at 3 years old. Her awards include YAGP New York Finals (2012) and Gold Medal at the American Dance Competition (2013).

Houston Chronicle feature

feature in El Nuevo Herald

 . . .. . .. . . 

Dajuan Bookerdance major, graduated in 2001. Danced with Momix Dance Company 2010-2014 and with Dance Theatre of Harlem for eight years. An American Ballet Theatre-certified teacher, Booker and currently teaches at the Harlem School of the Arts.

 . . .

. . . 

Cierra Flood, dance major, graduated 2013. (University of North Carolina School of the Arts). Currently dances with American Contemporary Ballet in Los Angeles.

 . . .. . . 

Marquis Floyd, dance major, class of 2013. Recently performed with Bad Boys of Ballet and the Dance Theater of Harlem.

Read Marquis Floyd’s Creative Pinellas Emerging Artist Fellow blog

 . . .. . . 

Helen Hansen French (Juilliard) Dancer, choreographer, collaborator. Toured internationally with Buglisi Dance Theatre. Co-founded the St. Petersburg Dance Alliance, Interim Executive Director of Rogue Dance Florida, co-producer of the annual BEACON Dance Concert at The Palladium Theater, onstage on April 3. 

photo by Tom Kramer

Listen to French on Arts In, the Creative Pinellas podcast

 . . .. . . 

Carmela Gallace (New York University, Bolshoi Ballet Academy) Currently adjunct professor at New York University and faculty at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Pre-Professional School, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Harlem School of the Arts. Danced with The Moiseyev Dance Company, toured internationally as a soloist with Riverdance and performed at the 100th Anniversary Celebration of The Nutcracker with the Kirov Ballet.

 . . .. . . 

Jonas Godwin, dance major, class of 2016. Currently dancing with the Cleveland Ballet. Charlotte Ballet 2nd Company (2016-18).

. . . 

Charlotte Johnson, dance major, graduated from PCCA in 2002, (Juilliard). Currently dances with Sarasota Contemporary Dance. Performing March 19 and 21 at the Museum of Fine Arts with opera singer Susan Hellman Spatafora.  . . 

Charlotte Johnson. Photograph by Sorcha Augustine and courtesy of Sarasota Contemporary Dance.

Read Johnson’s Creative Pinellas Professional Artist Fellow blog

 . . .. . . 

Shila Tirabassi LaGrua performed with Stephen Petronio Company in NY from 2001-11. Currently owner and founder of Body Center St. Pete, where she keeps dancers moving through neuromuscular therapy.

 . . .

Chelsea Meredith, dance major, 2004. Currently performs with Aerial Edge, in the United Kingdom, “Glasgow’s Circus School, Developing People Through Circus.”

  . 

Rebecca Minkoff, dance major 1999. A global fashion designer located in NYC.

rebeccaminkoff.com

. . .  . . .

Amos Oliver III (Boston Conservatory) Best known for his role as Thad in NBC’s Hairspray Live!

IMDB page

 . . .

Briana Reed

Briana Reed (Juilliard) Currently teaching at the Harlem School of the Arts. Danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. During high school at PCCA, Reed also danced with the Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet. In 2010 Reed was honored to perform at The White House in tribute to Judith Jamison and in 2013 to speak to First Lady Michelle Obama’s mentees of the White House Leadership and Mentoring Initiative at the Kennedy Center. Reed is a two-time recipient of the Key to the City of St. Petersburg.

Read Alvin Ailey dancer Briana Reed
offers tips on how to succeed as a career performer

 . . .. . . 

Drew Travis Robinson graduated PCCA in 2013 (University of Arizona). Recently performed and taught at the Florida Dance Theatre. Currently with the Tampa Ballet Theatre for season 2019-2020.

 . . .. . . 

Calvin Royal III

. . .

. . .

. . .

Calvin Royal III is currently a soloist with the American Ballet Theater. The first line in his company bio reads, “Calvin Royal III began his formal dance training under the direction of Suzanne Pomerantzeff and Patricia L. Paige at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, Florida.”

 

. . .

. . .

 . . .

Nicole Sabella is currently a dancer with the Mark Morris Dance Group in NYC and a Holistic Health Coach at Sabella Wellness.

. . . 

Kenneth Shelbydance major, 2012 (Indiana University). Dancing with the Cincinnati Ballet.

 . . .. . . 

Ephraim Sykes

Ephraim Sykes, dance major, graduated 2001 (Fordham University). Sykes performed in the original companies of Hamilton, Motown the Musical and Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, in Memphis the Musical, with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and appeared on the Netflix series Luke Cage.  He’s featured in Oscar-winning Kathryn Bigelow’s new feature film Detroit.

Sykes is scheduled to play Michael Jackson in the new 2020 Broadway show, MJ The Musical with book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, directed and choreographed by Tony-winner Christopher Wheeldon, opening in August.

 

 . . . . . 

Alana Smith Urda – photo by Nathan Johnson

 . . .

Alana Smith Urda, dance major, graduated 2001 (Florida State University). Currently co-founder and artistic director of the Amalgamate Dance Company in New York. The company tours nationally and internationally. As an entrepreneur, she creates dance events that involve community engagement and provide job opportunities for dancers.

. . .

. . .

Sir Brock Warren graduated from PCCA in 2004 (Boston Conservatory). Currently touring and performing in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. As a student in Pinellas County, he performed with African-American Dance Ensemble Community Project and Dundu Dole Urban African Ballet.

Read the Weekly Challenger’s in-depth story about Sir Brock Warren’s performance, Journey to Greatness, at The Studio@620.

 . . .

Gerald Watson

Gerald Watson, dance major, graduated 2008 (Boston Conservatory). Currently dances at Nashville Ballet and teaches in the School of Nashville Ballet’s Children’s Program and the new Young Men’s Scholarship Program, which he helped create.

. . . 

from Patricia Paige Parks
Dance Chair, Pinellas County Center for the Arts