EMERY - The next rising star may be found in Emery.

Dayna Jones, a kindergarten teacher in the Bridgewater-Emery School District, has been selected as this year's Dakota Star Talent Search winner following a performance at the South Dakota State Fair earlier this month in Huron. Jones was awarded $1,000 and a recording session with Cathouse Studio in Sioux Falls.

For Jones, who has been playing music her whole life, winning the Dakota Star competition felt "pretty good."

"Especially when I won singing one of my own songs that I wrote," Jones said in an email to The Daily Republic. "I've never won a contest that I can recall, so I was pretty surprised when they called my name."

Jones started playing music at 5 years old.

In fifth grade she decided to quit to play basketball, but a heart problem ended her career early, and she returned to music.

And since she's seen a lot of success, even singing on stage with country legend Martina McBride, Jones said. McBride serves as a role model to Jones, and has been very good to her in helping with the business and professional side of music.

Seeing how well McBride treats her band and crew, Jones strives to do the same for her band, Jones & Company. Jones and her five-member band have been together for past four years, with her on lead vocals. She occasionally also plays guitar and piano.

"It is important to surround yourself with good, positive people. Without them, you are nothing," Jones said. "I have current and former band members that I will always consider friends. It's truly a gift in life to come across people who are into the same thing as you are and have similar goals. We have a lot of fun out on the road."

Jones said she and her band play a variety of music, including country, rock and pop. She especially enjoys performing her own songs, and plans to use the studio session to record a few original works.

Her $1,000 reward will be reinvested back into her band, she said, to continue their success. They can often be found playing in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa, she said.

The band has opened for Grammy nominated musician Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, Canadian rock band Theory of a Deadman and will soon follow Brian Howe, former singer of Bad Company, on the stage this fall at Grand Falls Casino in Larchwood, Iowa.

And on Oct. 14, the group will be opening at The District in Sioux Falls for country singer Lauren Alaina, who will be performing at the Angels of Light Benefit with the Guiding Hand Foundation. The benefit is for families affected by cancer.

As an elementary teacher, Jones continues to work her band schedule around her busy school life. And she has no plans to quit music anytime soon.

"There is nothing better than doing something you love with some of your best friends," she said.