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She teaches music for a living, but Bella Angel Music school owner Ellen Bartolozzi likes to share her gifts freely too. 

During the holiday season, Bartolozzi plays piano and sings for residents at local senior living facilities. In November, she performed at Belmont Village Senior Living in Oak Park. On Dec. 9 she performed at Brookdale Senior Living Solutions in Oak Park, and on Dec. 30 she’ll bring her vocal and keyboard skills to a nursing home in Lombard. 

“I enjoy seeing how much the residents enjoy the performances,” said Bartolozzi. “I often hold sing-alongs during the performances, and those go over really well. The residents enjoy singing songs, especially those from their era.”

Bartolozzi also routinely holds her students’ recitals at senior residences, to combine performance skills for her pupils with a show for the residents. Her most recent student performance was held at Belmont Village on Dec. 7. Twelve students performed, the youngest eight years old and the oldest in his 60s.

Although she doesn’t force her students to perform in recitals, she encourages them. “I don’t want them to feel pressured but getting used to performing can help later in all aspects of life, like public speaking. It gives you confidence to be in front of an audience.”

And although most of her pupils are relatively young, Bartolozzi wants people, regardless of age, to consider trying something new.

“We teach students of all ages,” said Bartolozzi. “I like to tell people that it’s never too late to learn a new instrument. I meet a lot of people who say they wanted to take music lessons for years but never did. I tell them to start now.” One of her popular classes is an introduction to piano course for both adults and kids. Through individual instruction, students are given an opportunity to learn the basics of piano playing.

In addition to piano, students can also take lessons in voice, guitar, bass and ukulele, a new addition to the school this past summer.

“A lot of people say they could never learn to sing because they have a ‘bad voice.’ But we’re our own worse critics. Anyone can learn breathing, how to stand properly to vocalize, and how to strengthen their voice,” said Bartolozzi. “My goal is to give people a relaxed setting where they can comfortably learn.”

Bartolozzi not only teaches in Forest Park, but she lives there too. She moved to the area about 15 years ago.

In January 2017 she moved Bella Angel Music, which has been around since 1986, from its original location at Belmont Avenue and Harlem Avenue in Chicago to Forest Park. 

“The proximity to Chicago, with the feel of a small town, is wonderful,” said Bartolozzi. “It’s just a great location. I feel like it’s kismet that I live and teach here in Forest Park. I’ve had such positive experiences here. It’s such a family friendly community.”

Bartolozzi has a music degree from DePaul University. She is a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and of the Music Teachers National Association. She is also recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Award for her contributions to the arts. According to the Illinois Humanities website, “Recipients were selected for their service in the humanities, which includes significant and sustained efforts to further public understanding of, and appreciation for, the humanities at the community level.”

For Bartolozzi, the community aspect of teaching is important and includes her senior residence performances as well as other public events, such as singing with her students at Forest Park’s Holiday Walk during the tree lighting on Dec. 6. “We also walked around and sang at different locations on Madison Street,” said Bartolozzi. “People loved it.”

Bella Angel Music is located at 7601 Madison St., and Bartolozzi invites people to stop by. She wants to share her love for music.

“Aside from people, music has truly been the most positive influence in my life,” Bartolozzi said.