Mitchell-based student jazz band to compete Friday in Battle of the Bands – Mitchell Republic


A Mitchell student-led band is set to enter a music competition in Sioux Falls on Friday for a cash prize and the chance to play an opening set at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony of the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association.

The TriTones have been making waves in the Mitchell area with their jazz and blues beats since their inception in the summer of 2019, gaining exposure and name recognition while playing sets in the Mitchell area.

The group is led by Mitchell senior Zach Van Meter, who said the group’s evolution has been significant in its first two years.

“Over the past year, in particular, we’ve improved exponentially,” Van Meter said. “Just over the past year, we’ve really started to take it more seriously. It really improved us a lot as musicians.

The TriTones are made up of 10 members, each bringing their own talent to the pool. Other band members include Ella Mutziger, a senior guitarist; James Payne, an experienced trombonist; Drex Martinek, a junior trombonist; Jesse Dodd, a senior drummer; Aiden Beckstrom, a senior bassist; Maddi Gerlach, senior pianist; Izzy Lambert, flautist and senior vocalist; Second-year baritone saxophonist Mason Buenzow and senior tenor saxophonist Christian Kremer.

The band began playing smaller gigs for school events, but expanded to more public events, including twice at Amphitheater Thursdays in Parkston.

Now, the band is set for their biggest performance yet Friday night at the SDRRMA Youth Battle of the Bands at Ramkota Exhibit Hall in Sioux Falls.

The Battle of the Bands will see five South Dakota bands, each made up of school-aged children, compete for the chance to play a set at the SDRRMA Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday.

Van Meter said the band submitted an entry — and a submission video — not expecting to be selected for the event.

“The week before (the submissions) were due, we thought ‘oh, we should work on that,'” Van Meter said. “So we submitted a video, but we didn’t think we’d get in.”

A few months later, the band received a phone call, informing them that the TriTones would be performing.

Despite the surprise, the group is ready to give their all during the event.

“(The other bands) are amazing bands, I’m not going to lie, I’m a little nervous, but I’m so excited to go,” Van Meter said. “It’s going to be such a good gig, they’re all so good.”

Local jazz combo TriTones made up of band members, left to right, Jesse Dodd, Christian Kremer, Aiden Beckstrom, Zachary Van Meter and Drex Martinek perform on stage at Corn Palace Plaza during the last Farmer’s Market on Friday, September 23 . (Matt Gade / Republic)

Other bands performing are from all over South Dakota, but the TriTones are the only non-rock band. Van Meter said that might make the TriTones stand out, but not necessarily give them an edge.

“In the official rules, it says that the scores will not be manipulated by bias towards the judges’ personal musical preferences,” Van Meter said. “We’re the only band with horns and the only band that plays jazz, but the set we have is definitely the rockiest set we’ve ever had.”

Each group has twenty minutes to perform and each performance will be scored by a panel of judges. At the end of the evening, the jury will choose which group obtained the best score. This group will be selected to play on Saturday during the organization’s Hall of Fame induction.

The band plans to perform a version of “St. James Infirmary”, “Quarter Master” and “Where Y’at” in their 20-minute set.

Two of the competing bands will play rock sets, while the other two will play pop rock sets. Samples of the TriTones’ contest can be found on the SDRRMA Youth Battle of the Bands website.

The very first Battle of the Bands for SDRRMA youth will begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m.

The TriTones wished to express their gratitude to Mitchell High School Band Director Ryan Stahle and Dakota Wesleyan Assistant Professor of Instrumental Studies Bethany Amundson for their support of the band.

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Henry R. Wright