Liberty sophomore flutist whistles to her own tune

February 6, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Liberty High School sophomore Paige Balut stood on the football field at the University of Montana this fall, and felt at home.

She was there, flute in hand, with 150 other band students, handpicked for the school’s first all-star high school band experience.

Contributed Paige Balut (right), Liberty High School sophomore, meets conductor professor Paula A. Crider, from the University of Texas, at the 2013 all-state band conference.

Paige Balut (right), Liberty High School sophomore, meets conductor professor Paula A. Crider, from the University of Texas, at the 2013 all-state band conference.

“I have this friend who made a joke that I was ‘among my people,’” Paige said.

The musicians, from Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and Canada, gathered in November in the Montana cold for three days of music instruction, including hours upon hours of rehearsals, culminating with an all-star concert.

Paige qualified for participation since she was named to the all-state concert band as a freshman last year. She applied for the Montana experience, but wasn’t confident she would get selected.

She made the cut, even though about 75 percent of those selected were seniors, she estimated.

Her acceptance resulted in a seven-hour car ride from Renton to Montana, with a stop in Spokane to pick up a fellow attendee.

“It was a long car ride, really long,” Paige said.

Once Paige and her family arrived in Montana, she checked in to a hotel, where her roommates were other musicians from Washington state. There was not much time for rest, as they were immediately thrust into rehearsals for the all-star concert.

“There were just a lot of hours of rehearsal, and we got pretty tired of the songs by the end,” she joked.

In between rehearsals, the attendees got to perform the pre-show of a University of Montana football game alongside the school’s marching band.

“I couldn’t believe how big football was in Montana,” said Celeste Balut, Paige’s mom. “There was a crowd of about 27,000 that they played in front of.”

It was cold, Balut remembered, so cold, she could barely feel her fingers as she played the national anthem and the school’s fight song on her flute.

The college marching band had one piece of advice for its visiting high school students, Paige said, and it involved flying footballs.

“They said, ‘When you’re done playing, book it off the field or you’ll get hit with a football.’ That was the advice, to run,” Paige said.

The highlight of the three-day adventure, Paige said, was simply getting the chance to play music with others who love it as much as she does.

“It was nice to be around people who really care for their music,” she said. “At this thing, everybody wanted to be there. When the instructor gave us a correction, we’d do it and it was amazing because it would stay like that the rest of the time.”

It resulted in one fine concert at the end of the experience, Celeste said.

“It was fabulous. Most of those kids are upper-end musicians and so it was a very high-quality concert,” she said.

Paige, a member of the Liberty High School band, is also a member of the Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra. She joined the exclusive group in eighth grade, seeking a more challenging outlet for her skills.

She practices nearly every day in her Renton home, and thankfully, her mother Celeste doesn’t mind.

“I love it,” she said. “I love listening to her. Sometimes, she likes to ban me from the room, but I can still hear her.”


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