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For Luetys, love struck chord

Benjamin Luety is an avid trombonist. He met his wife, Treena, in Salzburg, Austria, in 2003. (Colin Mulvany)
Benjamin Luety is an avid trombonist. He met his wife, Treena, in Salzburg, Austria, in 2003. (Colin Mulvany)

The tale of how a singer from Canada fell in love with a trombonist from Montana reads like a storyline from a movie musical.

Treena Luety grew up in Toronto and has always loved to sing. “I sang into my hairbrush for my mom and dad,” she said, laughing. “I’d sing myself to sleep every night.”

Ben Luety was raised in Missoula by a trombone-playing father. “I started playing in elementary school,” he recalled.

The couple met in Austria in 2003, when both were performing at the World Choral Festival in Salzburg. Treena was singing with the Toronto Symphony Choir and Ben was playing with the Montana Trombone Chorale, a group formed by his dad.

After traveling through Europe by bus with the 100-member choir, the novelty had paled for Treena Luety. “I was getting a little sick of those people,” she said with a grin. She found it especially tiresome that some members of the group couldn’t bypass a piano in a hotel lobby. One evening as the symphony choir gathered, one of them sat down at the piano and began belting out show tunes.

As Treena cringed, she spotted Ben Luety across the lobby. He and a friend were rolling their eyes at the musical display. “He was wearing a Northwestern (University) sweatshirt,” she recalled. “I thought, I’m going to go over there and chat those guys up.” She needed a break from her fellow choir members.

So the vivacious, dark-eyed singer introduced herself and launched into an animated conversation with the fellows from Montana – kind of. “She talked. I listened.” Ben said. While he was a bit taken aback by her outgoing personality, he said. “I found her to be very intriguing.”

They discovered they would both be playing in Vienna next, and arranged to meet there. As they snatched moments together, Ben quickly discovered that “you couldn’t find two more opposite people.” As a native Montanan, he lived and breathed the outdoor lifestyle. Fly-fishing and rugged backpack trips are cornerstones in his life that give him a break from his day job as a bank vice president. By contrast, Treena said, “I come from a very large multicultural city.” She laughed, “I mean, I’m Asian. How many Asian backpackers do you see?” She wasn’t even sure where Ben lived. “For the longest time I thought Spokane was in Montana.”

Despite these differences, the cliché about opposites attracting proved true for them. Their time together went all too quickly. Soon, the Toronto choir headed to Prague, while the trombone chorale traveled to Germany. The couple exchanged e-mail addresses along with promises to stay in touch.

For Ben, the rest of the trip wasn’t the same. “I was pining for her,” he admits. And Treena missed him as well. Her group returned home before Ben’s, but as soon as she knew he’d be in Spokane, she sent him an e-mail.

He replied, and a long-distance courtship ensued. “We became as inseparable as you can get with me in Toronto and him in Spokane,” Treena said. As her August birthday approached, she made plans to travel to Spokane to stay for a week. Her family was skeptical. “My mother was horrified,” Treena said. But at 31, she knew what she wanted.

And that independence is what Ben, then 35, found so attractive about her. “I wanted a woman who knew herself and spoke her own mind.”

When Treena visited again in October, Ben took her to Priest Lake. He had a special hike in mind. “What he didn’t factor in was I’m a city girl,” Treena said. Still, she gamely followed him up the trail, sweating under the strain of the climb. When they reached a rocky outcropping, Ben set out a picnic lunch. From his backpack, he pulled a blanket, crackers, cheese, a bottle of wine – and an engagement ring.

And then he proposed. Treena was flabbergasted. “I didn’t have any idea,” she said.

Ben was somewhat surprised himself. “I’m a planned person,” he said. “This decision was highly unlike me.” Looking at Treena, he said. “I just went with my gut.”

Of course, music played a prominent part of their wedding in September 2004. Treena’s friends sang, and the Montana Trombone Chorale played. After the wedding they loaded Treena’s possessions (40 boxes of shoes, according to Ben) into her car and headed for Spokane.

The first few months in her new home were rough for Treena. Homesickness was compounded by the fact that she couldn’t work until she got her green card. “My circle of friends had been professional women by day, musicians by night,” she said. However, she did begin singing with the Spokane Symphony Chorale and within a month of her arrival, they’d purchased a home on the South Hill.

After five years of marriage, the couple says life together is still an adventure. “She’s had a steep learning curve,” Ben said. “She’d never slept in a sleeping bag or tent.” He’s learning some new things, as well.

“For every crazy backpacking trip – we go on a ‘foo-foo,’ umbrella-drink beach vacation,” Treena said.

And that has taken some getting used to for Ben.

“I grew up in Montana,” he said. “Why would I want to go to the beach?”

But compromise is working for them. Ben said, “I’m still learning more about her every day, and I really like that.”

And just like in a movie musical, the romance remains alive.

“My stomach still flutters when I think about him,” said Treena. “Being together hasn’t changed that excitement.”

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