SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The 2023 South Dakota All-State Band took over O’Gormann High School this past week.

All told, 181 students are a part of South Dakota’s All-State band this year, and one is Mitchell Christian High School sophomore Rebekah Strong. It’s a unique environment for the 16-year-old trumpet player.

“It’s really enjoyable ’cause the band I come from, we’re super small,” Strong said. “So we don’t play a lot of difficult music, and it’s just nice to have a full band and play difficult music and work with other really good musicians.”

Trumpet player Ashlee Kaup’s band at Hoven High School in north-central South Dakota is small, too.

“When I go to these things, it’s kind of a shock and a different experience to feel a big group,” Kaup said.

“She has that natural talent, but she’s also a hard worker,” Hoven band director Elizabeth Bengs said. “She puts in her time in everything she does.”

Bengs says this environment is a chance for Kaup to expand her trumpet skills.

“She has this opportunity to play with the best of the best and experience things that we just can’t do at home,” Bengs said.

Furthermore, Kaup’s presence with the All-State Band is good for Hoven.

“It’s huge,” Bengs said. “We haven’t had someone in high school All-State Band until Ashlee since the mid-90s.”

Kaup has now been a member of the All-State Band for four years. The group with whom the senior was rehearsing in Sioux Falls ahead of Saturday’s big concert was notably bigger than her entire high school class.

“I am one of 11,” Kaup said. “So, very small.”

For her, music is expressive.

“You’re able to play with your emotions and really show how you feel during the pieces that you play,” Kaup said.

It’s a similar meaning for Strong.

“It is to me a way to glorify God,” Strong said. “He gave me the ability to play trumpet very well.”

The kids named to All-State Band are South Dakota’s best. Stevens High School junior Merrick Mason of Rapid City played oboe and English horn with the All-State Band.

“I’m just grateful to get the opportunity to come here and play with a bunch of people, just to get to play my instrument, really,” Mason said.

For her, music means the world.

“Everything,” Mason said. “My life is kind of centered around band. I’m part of several different extracurriculars relating to band. I do a lot of auditioned opportunities in state, out of state, I play here, in Nebraska, I’m part of a drum line, marching band. I get to do all that kind of stuff, so my life is just music.”

There was a considerable amount of young talent at Friday’s rehearsal, and the music might be complex.

“I don’t know if you saw our time signatures on one of the songs, but it switches from like 6/8 to 5/8 to 11/8 to 12/8,” Strong said.

This environment and this company elevate these young musical minds.

“It’s an honor, really,” Mason said. “Just to be able to sit on that stage and play with such a great ensemble of people.”