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Making the cut: Mitchell's Karly Blaalid 'truly loves to play music'

In fifth grade, at the last second, Karly Blaalid changed her No. 1 instrument pick from flute to trumpet. And she has never regretted the decision. Blaalid, a senior at Mitchell High School, was recently chosen to attend South Dakota All-State B...

Mitchell High School senior Karly Blaalid was the school's lone performer to participate in the All State Band concert in Rapid City on March 24. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Mitchell High School senior Karly Blaalid was the school's lone performer to participate in the All State Band concert in Rapid City on March 24. (Matt Gade / Republic)

In fifth grade, at the last second, Karly Blaalid changed her No. 1 instrument pick from flute to trumpet.

And she has never regretted the decision.

Blaalid, a senior at Mitchell High School, was recently chosen to attend South Dakota All-State Band on March 24 after years of practice and dedication.

"It was the best band experience I've ever had," Blaalid said with a huge smile on her face. "Rehearsals were run extremely well by Dr. Jason Caslor and I learned what it felt like to be a part of that next level of a band."

In South Dakota, high school instrumentalists can compete to play in three All-State bands - Jazz, Band and Orchestra. Of all three, Band is by far the most difficult audition, Blaalid said.

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To successfully audition for All-State Band, students must learn all scales, perform a chromatic scale, sight read, play a prepared etude the state chooses, and play excerpts of a solo the student chooses.

"But you don't know what excerpts," Blaalid said. "It's a lot of music, but learning it helps you grow on your instrument."

To make it more difficult, about 700 students from across the state audition to be one of 160 students who make the cut.

Blaalid auditioned for All-State Band as a sophomore and junior, and when she didn't make it either year, it didn't discourage her.

"She kept at it until she made it," said Ryan Stahle, Mitchell High School band director. "She is one of the best I've worked with in terms of grit and determination."

When Stahle gave Blaalid the news in February she had been chosen for All-State Band, she considered it a great triumph.

"I just kind of freaked out. I was so excited and happy that I finally made it after four years of working hard on becoming pretty good at the trumpet," Blaalid said.

Blaalid's choice to play the trumpet stems from her mother's school days, when she played the same trumpet Blaalid plays today - a Bach Stradivarius, a professional-grade instrument. To live up to her own potential, and that of her instrument, Blaalid's parents agreed to enroll her in private lessons.

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So, as a part of her training regimen since eighth grade, Blaalid has included weekly private lessons with Bethany Amundson, band director at Dakota Wesleyan University. Amundson touted her student as hard-working and demanding of herself.

"She truly loves to play music, and it shows in the way she plays and in her work ethic," Amundson said in an email. "She is so eager to learn and soak up any knowledge she can. ... That, combined with her positive attitude and witty intelligence, is what makes Karly so extraordinary."

Blaalid credits her success, in part, to Stahle and Amundson for their support, direction, and guidance through the last several years.

Blaalid is also involved in almost every other instrumental group the high school offers, including jazz and marching band. On top of that, she played with DWU's LyricWood group, the Mitchell Community Band, and nearly every Sunday during service at Trinity Lutheran Church - not to mention she also practiced at least a half-hour to an hour on her own every day.

"She is an extremely hard-working student," Stahle said. "Kids shy away from the heft involved in putting together an audition for All-State Band, but she did it. It takes a lot of talent."

Although leaving Mitchell's band program behind this year will be bittersweet, Blaalid is looking forward to attending South Dakota State University in Brookings, partially on a music scholarship. She plans to minor in music, play in The Pride - SDSU's marching band - and participate in as many musical ensembles as she can.

To accompany her music minor, Blaalid plans to major in pharmaceutical sciences and eventually become a pharmacist.

"I fell in love with pharmacy during a health professionals camp at SDSU," she said. "Plus, SDSU is one of the best pharmacy schools."

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Looking beyond her college years, Blaalid hopes to continue making music, whether it's for public performances or simply a few notes here and there.

"I would like to continue playing trumpet throughout my entire life," she said. "It has brought me so much joy, and it has brought me so far."

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