TAMPA - Helen and Rick Foessett grew in different cultures and spoke different languages. She spoke Portuguese, he spoke English.
However, there was one language they had in common - the most universal language of all, music.
Helen grew up playing piano and many other instruments in her native Brazil, and Rick learned to play the guitar at an early age. They met in college and their love of music led to marriage. Helen had always wanted to start a music school and Rick went along with the plan. After owning a largely successful music school in Charlotte, N.C., they decided to move, with their 8-year-old son Lucas, another aspiring musician, to Westchase where they are opening the Westchase Music School on July 15.
The success in Charlotte gives the Foessetts plenty of reason to believe that they can duplicate their success in Westchase.
"We are going to be a family environment and make it like a home when the students and their parents are here,'' Helen said. "We have so many plans and can't wait to get started."
The Charlotte school has more than 60 students, and 25 teachers and staff members. In Westchase, they are starting slowly, trying to break in the classes before a big rush. There are currently 25 students, seven teachers, two front-desk employees, and two music lab teachers. Once the school starts moving along, more teachers are expected.
The school will teach all types of music including classic, Broadway, rock and metal among everything else. There are plenty of rooms with separate themes, but Helen said the emphasis is on teaching and having fun. No one, she said, is going to be a prodigy on Day One, but, with patience, anything is possible.
"Music comes from the heart,'' Helen said. "It helps with verbal skills, motor skills, and an appreciation of something they can use for the rest of their lives. You need to see the looks on the faces of kids when they hear themselves play for the first time. There's nothing like it."
Rick grew up playing the clarinet and piano, then moved on to guitar. He has plans to eventually release a CD. Lucas plays several instruments, but specializes on the drums. Helen plays a little of everything, but can make the piano do anything from classical to folk. She recently played a dead-on version of Bruce Springsteen's "Secret Garden," and followed it with a Spanish folk song for a visitor.
The lessons run about 45 minutes during the summer as the Foessetts get used to the Westchase area. Guests of all ages are invited to attend the school, and the school will start hosting performances. In Charlotte, the kids visit nursing homes just to sing "Happy Birthday" to the residents, who deserve it. Anything for a smile.
The Foessetts are going even further with their help in the community. They will be offering small music scholarships and also will be hosting a music video contest in September.
Westchase Music School is at 11301 Countryway Blvd., and can be reached at (813) 925-0102.