Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

School inspires musical growth and 'happy feet'

Date: 3/8/2013

By Lori Szepelak

WESTFIELD — A former funeral parlor has been transformed into an inviting, inspiring and invigorating space for top-notch music education.

Westfield School of Music, a privately owned music school located in the downtown area, encourages musical excellence in a non-competitive environment, according to Isabelle Boggs, director of the school.

Boggs and her husband Jim opened the school in September and has been pleased with the response from the community.

"Music is a gift for a lifetime," Boggs told Reminder Publications. "We have reached 47 students already, plus our Happy Feet Program is growing — we are doing well."

Boggs' assistant, Linda Skinner, said, "We have students from ages 3 to 75. Music helps with all aspects of learning and one becomes more well-rounded and open to culture."

Both Boggs and Skinner were delighted to share their love of music and hope their enthusiasm catches on in the community.

"Talent can be developed. Everyone can learn music; it's how you approach it," Boggs said.

"The Happy Feet Program for the little ones is especially helpful for discipline, organizational skills and learning a love for music," Skinner, who is an integral part of that program, said.

Boggs holds a bachelor's degree in musicology from the Sorbonne, in Paris, France; a master's degree in music performance from the University of Montreal in Canada; and a Massachusetts state teaching certificate.

She is a trained Suzuki string instructor from the Hartt School in Connecticut. She has been teaching private instrumental music as well as group classes to children and adults through her private studio, as well as teaching music courses, private lessons and group classes in strings and woodwind at Holyoke Community College and at Westfield State University for many years.

"My philosophy is anyone can be trained to play an instrument, not just children like most people believe, and the benefits are numerous at any age," Boggs said.

Skinner has been performing and teaching the clarinet for more than 11 years. She earned a bachelor's degree from Westfield State University, and a master's degree. from the Hartt School. Her focus at the Westfield School of Music is clarinet instruction, the Happy Feet Program, and as a music and game teacher.

Faculty also includes Joe Whalen, bass; Rob Zappulla, trumpet and voice; Dan Hendrix, trombone, euphonium, tuba; Yelizaveta Dubchak, Suzuki/Traditional piano and flute; Jonathan Becklo, classical/Suzuki guitar; Christian Dancy, classical jazz, pop, ukulele, mandolin and music therapy; Brandon Goulet, electric bass; Adam Call, saxophone; Aaron Lakota, oboe; Ali Zebian, drums, and Emma, voice.

"Our instructors are professionally trained teaching artists who love music and want to share that love and dedication with their students," Boggs said.

Boggs noted that what sets her business apart from others is not only the flexibility the staff provides, but the welcoming atmosphere to all who enter the school.

"We measure success by filling up the school with happiness," she said. "Some kids don't want to leave once their lesson is done."

Boggs stressed that the school centers on the Suzuki Method which is recommended for children starting as young as 3 years old. The Suzuki Method combines a music teaching method with a philosophy, which embraces the total development of the child.

"Dr. Suzuki's guiding principle was 'character first, ability second,'" Boggs added.

In addition to classes, Boggs offers instruments and accessories at reasonable prices, as well as a repair service.

"We have a very talented staff with 30 years of experience in repairing instruments," she said.

For more information on programs offered, call 642-5626, 297-2011, or visit Email inquiries may also be sent to

"We have extraordinary teachers who enable students to focus on mastering music and developing a feeling of belonging in a community through music sharing," Boggs said.