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story.lead_photo.caption Jim Skelton works with student Alayna Whited on Thursday during one of her vocal and guitar lessons at his music studio in Conway. Skelton, owner and director of the Conway Institute of Music, received the national Music Studio of the Year award during a ceremony Thursday. - Photo by Benjamin Krain

CONWAY -- A Conway man who started a private music school in 2009 was honored with a national trade group's annual award Thursday.

Jim Skelton, owner and director of the Conway Institute of Music, accepted the honor from the Music Academy Success System during a ceremony at the institute where he offers music lessons to 342 students, both children and adults.

When Skelton started the business in August 2009, he said he had just 65 students and five teachers. Now, he contracts with 25 teachers and provides lessons in guitar, piano, drums, voice, bass guitar, violin, viola, cello, ukulele and banjo.

To win the 2017 Music Studio of the Year award, Skelton competed against six other finalists from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois as well as three Canadian music schools, according to a news release. A congratulatory letter to Skelton from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and an Arkansas Senate citation were on display.

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Among those commending Skelton on Thursday were state Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier; state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow; Conway Mayor Bart Castleberry and the trade group's chief executive officer, Marty Fort.

Skelton has been playing the guitar professionally and teaching music for 30 years.

As for the institute's goals, Skelton said, "We just want to keep providing the excellent music experience to the families of this community so parents know that they're going to get great, encouraging music teachers to work with their children and that all the lessons are customized for the individual."

Penny Foley has enrolled three of her children in Skelton's music school. Her 15-year-old son, Matthew Puff, is studying the guitar; 14-year-old Alyssa Puff is studying voice; and 8-year-old Connor Foley plays the drums.

Matthew has been composing his own music, and the other two children also enjoy their lessons, their mother said.

"It seems to bring out more" than just music in children, she said, noting that her oldest son's academic grades also have improved.

State Desk on 09/08/2017

Print Headline: Conway music school owner wins '17 studio of year award

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