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Mitchell-based student jazz band to compete Friday at Battle of the Bands

The TriTones is composed of 10 students in Mitchell, and is entirely separate from school affiliations, though they are grateful for support from the music departments at Mitchell High and Dakota Wesleyan.

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The TriTones are a Mitchell-based, student-led jazz and blues group. Though they aren't affiliated with the school, they play community and school events around southeast South Dakota. Photo courtesy of the TriTones
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A student-led band from Mitchell is set to compete at a music competition in Sioux Falls Friday for a cash prize and the chance to play an opening set at the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

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

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

“Over the last year, specifically, we’ve gotten exponentially better,” Van Meter said. “Just over the last year we’ve really started to take it more seriously. It’s really improved us all a lot as musicians.”

The TriTones are made up of 10 members, each bringing their own talent to the pool. Other members of the group include Ella Mutziger, a senior guitarist; James Payne, a senior trombone player; Drex Martinek, a junior trombone player; Jesse Dodd, a senior drummer; Aiden Beckstrom, a senior bass guitarist; Maddi Gerlach, a senior pianist; Izzy Lambert, a senior flutist and singer; Mason Buenzow, a sophomore baritone saxophone player and Christian Kremer, a senior tenor saxophone player.


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

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

The Battle of the Bands will see five South Dakota bands, each consisting of school-aged kids, face off against each other for a chance to play a set at the SDRRMA’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday.

Van Meter said the group submitted an application — and a submission video — with no expectation of being selected to the event.

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

A couple months later, the group received a phone call, notifying them that the TriTones would be performing.

Despite the surprise, the group is ready to play their hearts out at the event.


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

Local jazz combo the TriTones consisting of band members, from left, Jesse Dodd, Christian Kremer, Aiden Beckstrom, Zachary Van Meter and Drex Martinek perform on the Corn Palace Plaza stage during the final Farmers Market on Friday, Sept. 23. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Other bands set to perform are from all across South Dakota — but the TriTones are the only non-rock band. Van Meter said it might make the TriTones stick out, but not necessarily give them an edge.

“In the official rules, it says that scores won't be manipulated by bias toward personal music preference of the judges,” Van Meter said. “We’re the only band with horns and the only band that plays any sort of jazz, but the set that we have is definitely the most rock set that we’ve ever had.”

Each band gets twenty minutes to perform, and each performance will be scored by a panel of judges. At the end of the night, the panel will choose which band scored the highest. That band will be selected to play Saturday at the organization's hall of fame induction.

The group 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 perform rock sets, while the other two will perform pop rock sets. Samples of the TriTones' competition can be found on the SDRRMA Youth Battle of the Bands website .


The first ever SDRRMA Youth Battle of the Bands will begin at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 6 p.m.

The TriTones wished to extend 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 group.

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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