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Sweet music at ‘Happiest Place on Earth’
by MATTHEW NASH
Disneyland just hosted one of the happiest teens in Sequim.
Babette Barton, 18, a Sequim High School junior, received an award on March 26 from Heritage Music Festivals as an inspiration for overcoming adversity.
“I’ve never gotten an award like this before,” Barton said. “I was shocked and happy.”
She flew with members of the Sequim High School band to compete March 23-27 at Fullerton College and march at Disneyland. Her band instructor Vern Fosket nominated Barton for the award after seeing her persevere when others might have quit.
Her musical journey definitely hasn’t been easy. A few years after overcoming epilepsy at age 10, Barton learned she had dystonia on her left side, a neurological condition that limits her physical capabilities due to consistent tightening of the muscles. The fingers on her left hand can’t straighten; her leg is less severely affected. She receives Botox injections every three to four months to relax her leg. Her right side is unaffected. Symptoms appeared a day after receiving a routine flu shot, her mom, Sally Winternitz said.
Barton said her life changed forever when she found out she had dystonia, in eighth grade. There were only two solutions at the time — brain surgery or medication.
“I was mad at everything,” Barton said.
In a writing assignment about a personal memory, Barton wrote the following:
“Getting Dystonia is hard to deal with. At the beginning, I told my mom that at my age I am supposed to be getting stronger not weak. But I can’t just sit around regretting everything that could have happened. If you look at what you can’t do, you’re not going to get anywhere in life,” she wrote.
“The lesson I learned from being disabled is that I have to look for the positive things I can still do.”
Barton moved to Sequim in 2003 from Illinois and began playing the flute in sixth grade. She played it for four years before her left hand’s disability prevented her from continuing. Barton recalls the day she realized the flute was no longer an option.
“I remember sitting in band crying and having Mr. Fosket take me out of the room and tell me that it was going to be OK,” she said.
Fosket said the shape of Barton’s hand worked for a little while playing the flute, but the challenge made it hard to keep up.
Her passion for music didn’t die, though, and after some encouragement from Fosket and Craig Buhler, her music instructor, she discovered the trumpet.
It’s the only instrument she can play with one hand, using her left hand only as a support.
Barton said she started taking private lessons and struggled to make it work.
“It was a very hard change,” she said.
Her first lesson was in August 2009.
“We all applauded when she made her first noise out of it (the trumpet),” Winternitz said.
Barton said she didn’t play too well at first due to the learning curve but she’s switched to a cornet because it’s smaller and easier to handle.
She continues to perfect her trumpeting while working on her high “E.”
“I feel I’m pretty good at trumpet,” Barton said.
Continuing the march
Barton plays in Sequim High School’s concert and marching bands. She maintains a busy schedule in and out of school with trumpet lessons, tutoring, massage therapy, art class and raising Molly, a yellow lab.
Winternitz said school has been an ongoing challenge for her daughter.
Barton said she types school assignments with one hand and that in cooking class, guys said she has a lot of skills. After graduating next year, she plans to start at Peninsula College.
“She’s tenacious and stays after it,” Fosket said. “She works her way through marching, too.”
Fosket added that students have been more than willing to work with Barton.
“The thing about band is that they don’t let people pick on each other,” Winternitz said.
At the competition, Winternitz said the percussion section was chanting her name from the back of the room with excitement. “Babette. Babette. Babette.”
Barton said her advice to people struggling in life is simply this: