MCHS student qualifies for All-State band performance

LEWISTOWN – The director of bands at Mifflin County High School said a long legacy of great horn players is continuing through one of the county’s young musicians.

Paige Laughlin, a junior French horn player, has qualified to participate in the PA All-State Band Festival, which will be held from April 17 to 20 in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association State Conference at Bayfront Convention Center in Erie.

To qualify, Laughlin participated in auditions at district and regional band festivals. Art Belfiore, MCHS director of bands, said Laughlin had to earn the first or second chair in her section to advance to the next level. Students are judged on rhythm, musicianship, pitch accuracy and more.

Belfiore said Laughlin earned first chair at the district festival to qualify for regionals. At the regional festival, she auditioned among 18 other horn players and earned the second highest score – this time, advancing to the all-state band. Laughlin was one of only 24 students to advance to the all-state level, out of a 188-member regional band, Belfiore said.

“I feel so honored, I really do,” Laughlin said about being chosen.

Laughlin said she started playing the horn in fourth grade at Strodes Mills Elementary School after her former band director played an instrumental wake-up call for the students.

“I thought it was cool that I could wake up my parents,” she said.

Her dedication to the French horn has only grown over the years. Belfiore said Laughlin played on the girls basketball team for years and chose not to play this year so she could spend more time preparing for the band festivals.

“I just think (the French horn) is beautiful. The sound can touch the hearts of so many people,” she said.

Laughlin said the horn is not usually a lead instrument in the band, but it can be at times.

“We have our shining moments,” she said.

The thing Laughlin said she looks forward to most about the opportunity to perform in the all-state band is meeting new people.

“That caliber of musicians … it’s gonna be really powerful,” she said.

Besides, the band family is one in the same, no matter where they come from, she said. The community of people who participate in band don’t judge others and gather with one common goal.

“We’re all here to make music together,” she said.

Though Laughlin has worked with many different musicians over the years and enjoys meeting new people, she pointed out those close to her as her biggest influences.

“Mr. B, of course,” she said, referring to Belfiore, “He’s always there for me.”

She said Belfiore always pushes her along and gives her constant support in her music career. Laughlin said she isn’t sure how she would have made it to the all-state level without his pep talks and fist pounds before auditions.

The Lewistown Community Band has been another inspiration. Laughlin said she joined the band recently and looks up to each of the musicians she plays with, calling the music they make “awesome.”

Belfiore described Laughlin as nothing short of “awesome” herself.

“When I first met Paige two years ago, I recognized then that she was gonna be the next really fabulous horn player from Mifflin County,” he said. “She’s that type of person where she has an objective, she sets a goal, and then she works to achieve that goal.”

“There’s no doubt that she will achieve great things in life,” Belfiore said, adding that this step alone puts Laughlin among “some of the best high school musicians.”

Laughlin said she plans to pursue music in the future with a double major including performance for the French horn.

The PA All-State Concert Band will perform at 4 p.m. April 20. For more information, call Art Belfiore at 242-0240 ext. 8192 or email