Michele Miller, Times Staff Writer

Michele Miller is a Tampa Bay Times writer in Pasco County. Miller coordinates and provides stories and photographs for Pasco entertainment features as well as the Top of the Class education feature.

Phone: (727) 869-6251

Email: miller@tampabay.com

  1. Going the extra mile pays off for Pasco student

    K12

    DADE CITY

    For Sergio Contreras, 17, success is all about choices — the ones you make and sometimes, the ones others make for you.

    Three years ago the thought of going to college seemed an elusive goal for a kid who had spent his formative years skating through middle school and his summers picking watermelons.

    Even so, Sergio knew he didn't want to spend his future toiling in the fields as a migrant worker or laboring on a construction site for an uncle who had started his own business. And he didn't want to end up like his dad or other family members who were doing jail time. ...

  2. Cotee River Seafood & Blues partners with Pasco Paddlepalooza

    Events

    Toasting the sunset in a kayak on the Gulf of Mexico is a fine way to kick off the weekend. It's not a bad way either to launch a couple of events that meld the blues, boats, shrimp and other festival sundries with the opportunity to embark on a gentle paddle to the gulf's edge or weave through obstacles and stilt houses along Pasco's scenic coast.

    Organizers of the Cotee River Seafood & Blues Festival and Boat Show this weekend in downtown New Port Richey have partnered with organizers of a new water venture called Pasco Paddlepalooza that will be staged at Gill Dawg Marina on Miller's Bayou in Port Richey....

    Enjoy the various events at the new Pasco Paddlepalooza in Port Richey all weekend or intersperse the fun with the Cotee fest in New Port Richey.
  3. Class notes: Events and scholarships

    K12

    Calendar

    • April 21-30: End of course exams.

    • April 22-25: FCAT 2.0 reading, math and science.

    • April 30: Progress reports.

    Music/art/theater

    Clue Mystery Dinner Theatre Fundraiser, 6:30 p.m. April 25 in the Wesley Chapel High School Band Room, 30651 Wells Road. The cast sets the stage for intrigue, murder and mayhem and the audience holds the key to unlock the mystery and uncover the conspiracy. Wesley Chapel Jazz Band will perform during intermission. Tickets for dinner and show $20 (cash); $20 plus fee (credit cards). Proceeds benefit the Wesley Chapel High band. For information and tickets, call (813) 727-7421 or email PorchTheatreCompany@gmail.com. ...

  4. Class notes

    K12

    Calendar

    • April 18: No school.

    • April 21-30: End of course exams.

    • April 22-25: FCAT 2.0 reading, math and science.

    • April 30: Progress reports.

    Music/art/theater

    Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey. (727) 774-7381:

    • River Ridge High Talent Showcase, 7 p.m. Tuesday. $5....

  5. Bellamy Brothers boost student athletes with benefit concert at Pasco High

    Music & Concerts

    Howard and David Bellamy have been spending a lot of time on the road and in the air. The homespun country duo known for hits such as Let Your Love Flow, Redneck Girl and Old Hippie are blazing a global trail, celebrating 40 years of performing with an international tour that includes stops in France, Germany, India, Australia and Switzerland along with more than 150 appearances throughout the United States....

    David, left, and Howard Bellamy look forward to seeing hometown friends and helping young athletes with a benefit concert at Pasco High School, their alma mater.
  6. Richey Community Orchestra to perform Handel's 'Messiah'

    Music & Concerts

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Among musical offerings, George Frideric Handel's Messiah is the ultimate of classical works. For members of the Richey Community Orchestra and their supporters, a Palm Sunday offering of the inspirational Baroque-era oratorio of the life and death of Jesus Christ, is a highlight of this performing season.

    "It's certainly our biggest production — particularly with the amount of people we have (performing) in it," said Denise Isaacson, Richey Community Orchestra's executive director. "Orchestral musicians love playing it, choral groups love singing it and the audience loves listening to it."...

    From left, Samuel Hild, Hannah Mae Schmidtke, Dawne Eubanks and Lothar Bergeest will have solo performances for the Richey Community Orchestra’s production of Messiah.
  7. A healthy harvest at Lacoochee Elementary

    K12

    DADE CITY

    Gaccelle Vazquez, 10, had a happy skip to her step as she made her way through a dozen or so raised beds, her arms filled with freshly picked vegetables.

    "Well I got myself some yummy, good onions and some yummy collard greens," she said in a sing-song voice, to no one in particular. "Now all's I need is a bag."

    Gaccelle's modest harvest, likely destined for the family dinner table, was the payoff for the hours spent toiling in the garden at Lacoochee Elementary School. ...

    A student shows off a bounty of carrots in the “Time to Sow Garden Project,” sponsored by members of the Dade City Garden Club.
  8. Singer's storied career leads her to write musical theater debut

    Human Interest

    SPRING HILL

    Martha Velez has lived a storied life.

    "I've been so, so blessed," she said.

    Velez reflected on a career that has unfolded with a series of serendipitous turns — a folk singing stint with the Gaslight Singers in the mid 1960s, a stint in the Broadway musical Hair, recording a blues-rock gig with then-session musicians Eric Clapton and Christine McVie, and a handful of albums including Escape From Babylon produced by Bob Marley. She landed in Los Angeles after the release of her 1975 album, American Heartbeat, and ended up with a regular role on Falcon's Crest and a small part in the 1993 movie Father Hood starring Patrick Swayze and Halle Berry....

    Spring Hill resident Martha Velez has been a Broadway performer, a recording artist and a movie actor. Her play, American Heartbeat, is contending for a spot in the Invited Shows category of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in July.
  9. Denham Oaks students up early for 'Dr. Dolittle Jr.'

    K12

    LUTZ — Rehearsal starts promptly at 8 a.m. in the music room at Denham Oaks Elementary, but no one seems to mind — not the kids who already pushed the risers to the back of the room to make space for a big ensemble number, and not the two teachers following along with the script as they encourage students to act like animals.

    Always staying in character, they could be playing a llama, a dog, a short-sighted horse or one half of a "push me-pull you," a rather odd creature thought up by children's author Hugh Lofting when he first conjured The Story of Dr. Dolittle, about an eccentric veterinarian who can talk to the animals he treats. ...

    Working on their parts are, from left, Clayton Topdemir, Andjelina Robertson, Vanessa Suarez and Megan Rio. 
  10. Dade City Garden Club brings the message of Springs Eternal close to home

    Water

    Hues of blue and green draw you in, get you thinking about making a date to paddle a canoe through the cool, clear water or simply lie back and ride the current's ripple in a place so still you can hear the plop of a turtle dive.

    Take a gander at the "before" photo — taken close to 40 years ago — and the accompanying prose that tells how development contributed to the steady demise of these fragile Florida springs....

    John Moran’s photographs serve as a visual history of the changes in Florida’s springs and an introduction to a project to preserve the state’s blue waters.
  11. Newsmakers

    K12

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Sloppy Joes, crispy chicken bites and the "lean machine combo" were among the lunch menu offerings for students at Wesley Chapel Elementary School. But while making their way to the food line, students passed by more than 3,000 cans and bags of pet food stacked against the cafeteria wall.

    Collecting all that food in just a few weeks an impressive feat for members of the school's safety patrol. It was also a tangible reminder for others about the furry creatures in need of a helping hand. ...

  12. Arts center director ready for his next act

    Human Interest

    WESLEY CHAPEL — Theater etiquette 101: Be respectful to your neighbors in the seats around you and to the theater building, too. But be sure to give special reverence to the performers coming on stage because soon the curtains will part and you won't want to miss a thing.

    Now on with the show.

    For 14 years, that was the gist of Patrick McDermott's welcoming spiel, a kind of mind-your-manners directive delivered from the side of the stage to settle antsy youngsters wriggling with anticipation in well-padded seats. ...

    Patrick McDermott is retiring after more than a decade as director of the Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel. “I’ve been looking forward to it, but it’s bittersweet,” he says.
  13. Pasco County school notes

    News

    Calendar

    Thursday: End of third quarter.

    Friday: Teacher planning day. No school for students.

    March 17-21: Spring break.

    March 31: Report cards.

    Music/art/theater

    • Throughout March, the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery, 6231 Grand Blvd., will feature an extensive photography exhibition from the Pasco eSchool, a virtual classroom, with students enrolled from all over Pasco County. For information, call (727) 848-6500 or email nprgallery@aol.com....

  14. Art with a different spin

    Visual Arts

    Robert Sutherland can't pinpoint where the idea came from. As sometimes happens with art, spin painting was one of those happy accidents, born from a thought to make use of paint left on his palette after finishing a commissioned piece, and the notion that a change of perspective could sprout creativity.

    Sutherland is a commercially trained artist whose media include oils, casein, pastels, oil pastels, watercolor, pencil and pen and ink. He wasn't looking to paint anything in particular when he brushed fresh strokes of leftover paint on a blank canvas. On a whim, he turned the canvas on its side and to his delight, discovered the serendipitous image of a child looking at his foot. ...

    Robert Sutherland’s oil of Andy Warhol was created through the relatively new concept called spinning. As the canvas turns, new images appear.
  15. Safety first is always the lesson at Pasco's Safety Town

    K12

    HUDSON

    The children's eyes are full of wonder as the school bus pulls up to be greeted by Corp. Creg Bell, a.k.a. "the sheriff" of a pint-sized village called Safety Town.

    "Good morning!" Bell says in a booming voice, only to be met with a tepid response from the kindergartners from Schrader Elementary who are busy taking it all in through the bus windows.

    "Oh, are we sleepy?" Bell asks. "Now let's try that again."...

    A visit to Safety Town is pretty much a rite of passage for primary students in Pasco schools and beyond who learn ways to keep safe whether it be on a bicycle, on a street, by the pool and in their own home. Here, kindergarten student Alex Minguez gets some help putting on a bicycle safety helmet from volunteer Janet Hochendoner.