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. Class notes: Events and scholarships



    • April 21-30: End of course exams.

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

    • April 30: Progress reports.


    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. ...

  2. Class notes



    • 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.


    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....

  3. 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....

    Howard Bellamy, left, and David Bellamy graduated in the 1960s. Their mother drove a school bus and worked in the cafeteria. “That made it hard for us to skip school,” Howard said.
  4. 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.
  5. A healthy harvest at Lacoochee Elementary



    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. ...

    Destiny Cummings, 9, waters the garden before picking some vegetables to bring home for his family for dinner.
  6. Singer's storied career leads her to write musical theater debut

    Human Interest


    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....

    Scott Tilson, left, and George Dwyer play lead roles in American Heartbeat.
  7. Denham Oaks students up early for 'Dr. Dolittle Jr.'


    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. 
  8. Dade City Garden Club brings the message of Springs Eternal close to home


    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....

    Moran co-founded the Springs Eternal Project, which includes scientists, researchers and artists.
  9. Newsmakers


    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. ...

  10. 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.
  11. Pasco County school notes



    Thursday: End of third quarter.

    Friday: Teacher planning day. No school for students.

    March 17-21: Spring break.

    March 31: Report cards.


    • 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....

  12. 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. ...

    A work by Spin D’Arte member Ann Henson.
  13. Safety first is always the lesson at Pasco's Safety Town



    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."...

    It’s all clear at the intersection of Listen Street and 911 Lane.
  14. Early birds should secure their spots at Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival


    Birding is a big deal here in Florida, especially this time of year when migratory species are heading north over the Atlantic flyway. That makes for perfect timing for the second-annual Nature Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival to be held March 20-23 at a variety of natural sites and parks in Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

    Among those that may be making an appearance are burrowing owls, red-cockaded woodpeckers, Bachman's sparrows, wood storks, Limpkins, swallow-tailed kites, black rails and Florida scrub jays....

    A swallow-tailed kite is among the species that may be spotted.
  15. All for the Arts concert will feature the Wesley Chapel Wind Ensemble

    Music & Concerts

    WESLEY CHAPEL — The Wesley Chapel Wind Ensemble started out as a small band with a bigger dream. In 2007 it was just a handful of musicians practicing in a meeting room at a car dealership.

    An open-door policy along with a mission statement to help foster the local arts has helped add to the numbers along with a bigger place to rehearse in the band room at Weightman Middle School.

    "The last concert we had 40 people on the stage," said founding member Glenn Weatherly. "This is a real community band. We have musicians ranging in age from a 14 to 86."...

    The event’s proceeds will help fund shows at the Masque Theatre.