ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JENNIFER PROFFITT
For Hillsboro High School senior Katie Baltzer, singing is a way of life.
“Music has always been in my life ever since I was little,” she said. “My family continually surrounded me with music and it grew to be a part of me.”
Her grandfather, Jona Baltzer, was the high school music teacher in the 1970s and her mom, Shirley, is the music teacher for the elementary school.
Baltzer said she learned a lot having her mom as her music teacher. Even though it was challenging, it was a good thing.
“I think mom helped me,” she said. “She treated me as equal and encouraged me just like any other student.”
Baltzer said her mom encourgaged her singing and arranged for voice lessons.
“I’ve been singing most of my life, but the voice lessons started in sixth grade,” she said. “I also started going to contests in junior high.”
Baltzer said the competition can be tough because contestants must prepare solos in two different styles, and they are judged on a variety of skills.
Baltzer continued competing in high school and was able to achieve one of her goals.
“My sophmore year I made it to state and received a ‘I’ rating,” she said. “It was good, knowing I had finally gotten there. It was something I wanted to do.”
Another accomplishment that year was being one of only two sophomores selected for the prestigious traveling singing group Spirit-N-Celebration.
“S-N-C is a small group from the concert choir you have to audition for,” Baltzer said. “Freshman aren’t eligble and tryouts are competitive.”
Baltzer said just knowing she could hold her own and be in the group with upper classmen gave her confidence.
David Clark, HHS music teacher and the director of S-N-C, praised Baltzer’s singing and her leadership skills.
“Katie is best at leading because she leads by setting a good example,” he said. “She’s a senior this year and she’s really starting to blossom. It’s also really nice to see her smile.”
In addition to singing in school, Baltzer sings in her church with the youth praise team and sometimes plays offertories on the piano. She also sings with a local group.
“It’s not really a band, but we attend area-wide worship and youth meetings,” she said.
She became involved with the group through Rod Jost, her youth pastor at Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church. Jost plays the bass guitar for the group.
Baltzer said she likes singing with the group because they are a lot of fun and they sing popular songs.
“I get to sing the kind of music I like,” she said. “And it’s a lot of fun getting up in front of your friends and singing.”
This revelation may shock some of Baltzer’s friends.
“I’m a fairly shy person and people just don’t expect that from me,” she said. “When I get up and sing, they’re like,’Wow-where did that come from?'”
Baltzer said her shyness has never been an issue for her when she sings.
“The shyness just isn’t there when I perform,” she said. “I’ve always just liked performing as far as music goes and I’ve never really gotten nervous about it.
“Music is a way of expressing anything you want. It’s a good form of expression when you’re shy.
She credits the group she sings with for helping her enjoy performing, but said Jost has especially been a major source of inspiration.
“He’s really been an influence with my singing,” she said. He is always encouraging and he’s very positive. He obviously enjoys music and it’s not like its an effort for him. It’s just natural and that’s nice to see.”
Baltzer also said Clark was instrumental in helping her improve her singing.
“He always pushes you to be the best and being in S-N-C has given me confidence,” she said.
Even so, Baltzer feels there is more to music than just performing.
“Music needs to be something you feel and not just something that’s technically correct,” she said. “If the music has no emotion, it shouldn’t be considered music.”
Baltzer said one form of music she can really relate to is anything by popular artist Sarah McLachlan.
“Her songs are my favorite to sing,” she said. “She has the same range I do-it’s really low. Her songs have a deeper meaning, they have a point.”
Baltzer said it’s important to her that the songs she sings mean something. She especially enjoys singing in church.
“Knowing that I touched people with my singing, or that I had some effect on them-that’s the best reward.”
With such a talent for singing and a deep family tradition in music, Baltzer said she believes music will always be important to her.
“I can’t imagine not being able to sing,” she said. “If I couldn’t sing anymore I’d be very dissappointed. It would be really hard to not be involved in something I’ve always enjoyed.”
Baltzer will finish her high school career by traveling around with S-N-C, singing in various area churches about once a month.
She said there are more contests, but she most looks forward to singing with her group from church. She also has plans to continue her music career after high school.
“I want to go to either Willam Jewel or Southwestern,” she said. “I want to study biology. I’m fascinated with that side of science, but that could change. My love of music won’t.”