Wallace State Alumna Paige Clabo Inspires Young Performers with Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts

Jun 27, 2024Dalton Bright
Paige Clabo, owner and artistic director of Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts, instructs the cast during a rehearsal of “Disney's The Aristocats Kids” in the Recital Hall of the Burrow Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Wallace State Community College.

Paige Clabo, owner and artistic director of Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts, instructs the cast during a rehearsal of “Disney's The Aristocats Kids” in the Recital Hall of the Burrow Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Wallace State Community College.

Hanceville, AL — Paige Clabo's journey from small-town stages to the bright lights of Dollywood and back again is evidence of her passion for the performing arts. Now, the Wallace State alumna and former Dollywood performer is sharing her love of performance with the next generation through her business Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts.  

Clabo is the owner and artistic director of Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts, a Cullman-based service that offers vocal lessons, competition coaching, audition preparation, theatre workshops and pageant talent coaching. The company’s debut production of “Disney's The Aristocats Kids” will be held on June 28 at 7 p.m. and June 29 at 2 p.m. in the Burrow Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Wallace State Community College.  

Clabo's personal love for taking the stage began early, influenced by a supportive family and a passion for performance. For her, performing on stage was a way to meet other people and build confidence.  

“My mother has always said that I was dancing and singing in the womb. From a young age, I loved being on stage as a way to escape and be a different person for a little while,” said Clabo. “I think I struggled with self-confidence growing up as a lot of young women do, so that struggle started to ebb away as I took part in the performing arts growing up because I had so many great people pouring into me and teaching me. You create a family with each cast you are in, and I think learning new things alongside new people is such an important experience. I think something about that dynamic really helps to grow the confidence level, no matter the age.”    

When she was a student at Cullman High School, Clabo was an active member in the choir ensemble, show choir and was a part of all the theatre productions, but said that she wanted even more opportunities. Being a fan of jazz music and taking the stage to sing, Clabo asked band director Christopher Smith if she could join the jazz band as a vocalist.   

“In high school, I was a part of all the choir ensembles and the theatre productions but still craved more opportunities. I begged Mr. Smith to let me join the jazz band to sing and I was the first jazz band vocalist at Cullman High School back in 2008,” said Clabo. “Just the fact that he was willing to give somebody a chance that was looking to gain some more experience means a lot to me. It was awesome to get to take the stage with the jazz band and I am so grateful for him.”   

Taking the Stage at Wallace State 

When it came time for college, Clabo knew she would choose Wallace State, having been influenced by her grandmother, Rebecca Branch. Branch was among the first employees at Wallace State. 

“My grandmother was here before there were many buildings on campus and she helped get many constructed in the 1960s. There is now a residence hall on campus named after her,” said Clabo. “I grew up hearing lots of stories about Wallace State and how much my family loved it, so since I was a kid, I always wanted to come here to attend college. Knowing how much work was put in to building the college from the ground up, it was so special for me to come here.”  

Clabo enrolled at Wallace State in 2010 and was awarded a Fine and Performing Arts Scholarship. In 2011, Clabo was named Miss Wallace State, which was her very first pageant.  

As a student, Clabo was an active member of the Wallace State Singers and Theatre department productions including shows like “Shrek the Musical” and “The Little Shop of Horrors.” Away from Wallace State, she was in productions with the Decatur Community Theatre group, where she was the narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”   

Clabo said Tiffany Richter, Director of Choral Activities at Wallace State, and Lauren Cantrell, former Wallace State Theatre and Dance Instructor, played an integral role in her life, encouraging her to take the stage as a career.   

“I came to Wallace State being timid, but Tiffany Richter and Lauren Cantrell really worked with me so much and invited me into the Fine and Performing Arts family. At the same time, they treated me the way that professionals are treated in a real setting because it can be a tough world and can come with a lot of rejection. The faculty really helped walk me through and they really encouraged me to pursue performing arts as a career, which I loved because so many people told me growing up that singing is not a job and that you can't make money singing. I really wanted to prove them wrong, so I set that as my goal,” said Clabo. “Since I had a scholarship to go to Wallace through Fine and Performing Arts, I always felt like it was my job to perform to my best ability because they were paying for my school, so I treated it like a full-time job. I think if you want to do this professionally, it's important to treat every opportunity like a professional opportunity.”  

Clabo said being cast as Adelaide in the 2012 Wallace State production of “Guys and Dolls” marked a significant turning point in her path towards becoming a full-time performer.    

“When we did ‘Guys and Dolls’ in 2012, Tiffany Richter and Lauren Cantrell suggested I consider trying to do professional work. They started pushing me and training me in how to audition. They really showed me how to go out and try hard for other things, and I was so grateful. I don't think I would have done it if they had not encouraged me to at least try,” said Clabo. “That same year, they brought in someone from outside who had worked professionally in the field and conducted an audition workshop, which was very helpful.”   

Clabo Dollywood

Richter said Paige was a standout performer during her time at Wallace State, noting her dedication to each class, rehearsal and performance.  

“Paige was an incredible student during her time at Wallace State. She was mature before her time, which made her very conscious of timeliness and how to give her all in rehearsal. She was decidedly prepared every time she walked through the doors. When you put all of that together with a dynamite talent, it’s absolutely no wonder Dollywood offered her a job,” said Richter.  

Clabo’s Journey to Dollywood 

Clabo graduated from Wallace State in 2013 with an associate degree in general studies. Following graduation, and with encouragement from her family and Wallace State faculty, Clabo decided to audition for a role at Dollywood.   

“The audition came up one day while I was having lunch with my grandmother, and she really encouraged me to go. I didn't think I was going to do it, but she insisted, so she booked a hotel room right there, and we went to Atlanta the next weekend together. At the time, I was very scared, but Tiffany Richter and Lauren Cantrell kept telling me that I needed to try out some things. I decided to try, not expecting to get a call, but I thought I would just go and see what happened,” said Clabo. “I went to the audition and found that Dollywood had some of the best people to audition for. They were all very kind."   

Following her audition, where she performed “Gorgeous” by Taylor Swift, “The Girl in 14G” by Kristin Chenoweth, “Gravity” by John Mayer and Dolly Parton’s own “9 to 5,” Clabo was told she would hear back from Dollywood representatives in a three to four months.    

“I auditioned and got a call two days later, which is very unusual, but I am still so grateful for that. About four months later, I moved up to Pigeon Forge and continued to be in shows for the next eight years,” said Clabo. “Dollywood is a family-friendly environment with top-notch professional work, and they have won IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) awards, which are global amusement park awards for their shows. I was in an award-winning show called ‘Dreamland Drive-In' for four years, which just closed last year after running for almost 20 years.”   

Clabo at Dollywood

During her eight years performing at Dollywood, Clabo had the opportunity to provide on-stage backup vocals for Dolly Parton three times and was in a movie starring Parton called “Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.” While her time at the park was packed with memorable experiences, Clabo said the best part of her eight years in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., was meeting her husband, Wes.   

“Dollywood was where I met my amazing husband,
and I think we have a pretty cute story. He was a lighting and sound swing, and as a swing, he would fill in for anyone who was out as he could run lights, sound and work backstage. He was filling in as a spotlight operator during a ‘Dreamland Drive-In' show,” said Clabo. “The lighting director, Erin, came backstage and said she thought Wes had a crush on me. When I asked why she thought that she said that even though I was in the ensemble, the spotlight kept hitting me throughout the show.  From then on, it was gangbusters, and we've now been married for eight years.”  

Coming Home to Cullman 

Following the mass shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the couple decided to move back to Cullman in 2020.   

“Pigeon Forge is mostly all tourism-based jobs, so Wes and I lost our jobs on the same day. At the time, we just really prayed it through and felt like we were being called here,” said Clabo. “Now we are home, and we are loving it. Even though COVID may have been a bad situation for a while, it has turned into something amazing for the Clabos.”   

After relocating, Wes began working at Wallace State as the Performing Arts Building Technician, bringing an outstanding level of professional expertise to Wallace State events and productions. The Sevierville, Tenn., native now calls Cullman home.  

“Wes is getting to do the work that he is excellent at, and he loves it. He is a top-notch lighting and sound designer, and I am very grateful that he ended up somewhere my whole family loves and that he is getting to experience Wallace State. I got to experience it as a student and he's getting to experience it as a staff member, and I think he loves it just as much as I do,” said Clabo. “There is something different about Cullman, and I'm very glad to be home. Now, Wes even refers to Cullman as home. He was 40 when we moved here, but this feels like home to him. It feels like it does because everyone is collaborating and wanting to make it an amazing place to live.”  

In addition to providing her with an education that led to a successful career in performing arts, Clabo said Wallace State is a special place, noting the personal investment of faculty and staff who know students by name and share a collective passion for the college.   

“I think there are so many things that make Wallace State special. President Dr. Vicki Karolewics does a great job with all that she does when it comes to strategic planning, and I think she really inspires people and plants a seed where everybody is on fire for Wallace State. You can tell every time you walk in, no matter what building you walk into, that people are passionate about the college and that they love what they do. That shared passion makes the students want to come in and do a good job. I really feel like the faculty and staff at Wallace State know their students, interact with them on a deeper level and have a love for what the college is and what it represents,” said Clabo. “Dr. Karolewics is such an important part of Wallace State. She pours into students, and she certainly poured into me. When I got my job at Dollywood, I got a handwritten letter in the mail from Dr. Karolewics encouraging me and telling me how proud she was of me. I had moved into a random apartment in Tennessee, and she still wrote me.”   

A New Beginning with Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts 

Following the move back to Cullman, Clabo began working at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce. During this time, she saw many residents starting their own businesses and felt called to start Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts. The name comes from an Amy Grant song that Clabo sang for many years as a performer at Dollywood.  

“While I was working at the Chamber of Commerce for three years, I saw so many people opening their own businesses and doing the things that they loved. I really felt like I was being called to provide more performance opportunities for children in this area. In one sentence, Heirlooms really is just about cultivating music for generations to come,” said Clabo. “I was cast in a role for several years as a mother and I sang the song ‘Heirlooms’ by Amy Grant. That song really means a lot to me, and an heirloom is passing something on that people can use forever. That is the premise behind Heirlooms and our primary goal is teaching music at a young age so that other people can do that eventually too.” 

Clabo Dollywood

Richter said she is glad to have Clabo back in Cullman and is excited to see the continued success of Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts.   

“I have watched her grow through the years, from performer to businesswoman. Paige is a visionary. She is capable, kind and so anxious to pour into the town that created her. I can’t wait to see how her career continues to evolve, and how Cullman benefits from it,” said Richter.   

After Heirlooms Fine and Performing Arts' inaugural production of “Disney's The Aristocats Kids,” Clabo said she looks forward to continuing her work fostering a deep love for the performing arts in children.   

“The biggest goal to me is pouring into children the way that I wish I could have been when I was growing up. There were not as many opportunities for shows like what we are doing now and for things such as vocal lessons. I hope to do several more of these shows in the future and give kids the chance to find their voice on stage,” said Clabo. “The best part absolutely has been pouring into these kids and seeing them gain confidence, grow and shine in everything they do."   


About Wallace State 

Wallace State Community College (Ala.), a member of the Alabama Community College System, is a comprehensive community college in north central Alabama offering more than 200 options in academic, health and technical programs of study leading to an associate degree, certificate or transfer, as well as workforce-credit training and adult education. An Achieving the Dream Leader College, nationally recognized by the Aspen Institute as a finalist for the 2025 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, ranked by Southern Business and Development among the Top 3 institutions in the South for workforce development, named a Center of Excellence by the National League for Nursing and the National Security Administration, rated the Top Online Community College in Alabama, a Military Friendly Institution and an All-Steinway School, Wallace State is an outstanding place for students to pursue their education and career goals. Classes are offered online and on campus, day, evening and on weekends, with numerous start dates each year. Visit Wallace State’s beautiful main campus located on 300-acres in Hanceville, Ala., our satellite location in downtown Oneonta, Ala., find us online at www.wallacestate.edu, or call 256.352.8000. 


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