Ben Koch has been Director of Bands at O’Gorman High School since 2014, where he conducts 2 concert bands, 2 jazz bands, jazz combo, pep band, marching band, brass choir, and the musical theatre pit orchestra. A native of Sioux Falls, Ben graduated from O’Gorman in 2004 and went on to receive undergraduate and masters degreesin music from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is currently serving as a member of the Region II Music board and has previously served as the AA band representative on the SDHSAA Music Advisory Committee. Ben enjoys playing horn with the Sioux Falls Municipal Band and is a regular pianist/organist for Sunday Mass at his home parish.
Mary Cogswell is currently in her 33rd year of teaching band, the past 29 years in the Brookings, SD School District teaching beginning band. Her service to the profession includes serving as Past-President of SD Bandmasters Association as well as Phi Beta Mu Sigma Chapter, SDHSAA All-State Band Music Chair, and a member of two National Band Association committees. Mary’s service to the profession also includes developing the SD Bandmasters Director of Young Band Midwest Clinic Scholarship and the SD Bandmasters Heritage Video Series, and serving as co-editor of the Beginning Band Adaptable Series through Murphy Music Press, which emphasizes flex arrangements based on a rubric specifically created for beginning bands.
Mary has delivered presentations emphasizing recruitment and proper instruction for the success of beginning band students to SD Bandmasters, SDMEA and the SD Department of Education. In addition, she was an invited speaker on the SDPBS radio show “In the Moment” and “Everything Band” podcast with Mark Connor. Mary’s conducting engagements include the 2018 SD Middle School Festival All-State Band and annually directing the SDSU All-State Music Camp for Young Band Members. Her recognitions include the 2019 SD School Band and Orchestra Magazines “50 Directors Who Make a Difference”, 2020 Phi Beta Mu Sigma Chapter Distinguished Service Award and 2021 Phi Beta Mu Sigma Chapter Outstanding Bandmaster.
Susan Karels is in her 31st year as the 6-12 Band Director for the Milbank School District. She grew up in Claremont, SD and attended Langford High School. Mrs. Karels earned her BME in Instrumental and Vocal Music Education from Northern State University in 1992. She earned a Masters of Arts and Letters in 2000 from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Mrs. Karels is a member of the South Dakota Bandmasters Association, South Dakota Music Educators Association, the National Association for Music Education, Phi Beta Mu, and Sigma Alpha Iota. Currently she is serving as the Region 3 Music President.
Mrs. Karels is active in the Milbank area serving as a church organist for St. Joseph’s Parish in Rosen, Minnesota. She also participates in the Ortonville Area Swing Band playing trombone and piano. Mrs. Karels operates a private music studio with instruction in piano and organ studies.
Mrs. Karels feels fortunate to work in a very music supportive town. She and her husband, Jason, have two children, William and Hope. Jason is one of the CTE instructors at Milbank High School. William is currently attending SDSU as a Mechanical Engineer major with participation in Concert Choir, Concert Band, Pep Band, and Pride of the Dakotas. Hope is a junior at Milbank High School where she participates in Band, Choir, and Tennis. Mrs. Karels in her spare time serves as a Grant County 4-H Leader and a member of the Milbank Area Lions Swim Team board.
George Dragoo is the Director of Bands at Rapid City Stevens High School. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Chadron State College in Nebraska, and a Masters of Arts and Letters from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Oregon. Mr. Dragoo is also a graduate of the internationally renowned American Band College. Mr. Dragoo is an active member of the South Dakota Bandmasters Association and a proud member of Phi Beta Mu. He currently holds the position of President of Region 8 to the South Dakota High School Activities Association and Secretary/Treasurer for the South Dakota Bandmasters Association.
Mr. Dragoo serves as the Head Director of the Stevens High School Band. His directing responsibilities include the Symphonic Band, Silver Jazz Band, Cadet Band, Blue Raider Marching Band, and the Stevens Pep Band. Over the summer Mr. Dragoo directs the Rapid City Ranger Band, performs with the Rapid City Municipal Band, and teaches at the Rapid City Summer Band School.
Mr. Dragoo’s family consists of his wife Jenni, and his children Simone and Ethan. He is active in the Fountain Springs Church and enjoys any pastime that allows him to spend time together with his family. Finally, Mr. Dragoo is a Die-Hard Cubs Fan for life.
Dan Sip has been teaching 5th and 6th grade bands in the Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools in Sioux Falls since 2007. Prior to that, he taught 5-12 Band in several programs throughout South Dakota, including Baltic, Hill City, Highmore and White Lake. Dan received his Bachelor of Music Education degree from South Dakota State University in 1994.
Dan served as a soldier-musician as a tuba player in the 147th Army Band of the SD Army National Guard, from 1990-2012. Dan has also served as an adjudicator for several solo/ensemble contests around the Sioux Falls area. He is a member of South Dakota Music Education Association, South Dakota Bandmasters Association, Phi Beta Mu and the National Band Association.
Dan continues performing as a member of the Sioux Empire Brass Society and as a substitute with the Sioux Falls Municipal Band. Dan lives in Sioux Falls with his wife, Stacy, who teaches grades 4-8 orchestra in the Sioux Falls School District, and their son, Ethan.
Wendy Thorson grew up in Clear Lake, SD and graduated from Deuel High School. She then attended and graduated from Northern State University in 1997 with a BME in Instrumental and Vocal Music Education. Wendy started her teaching career in Conde teaching K-12 vocal and instrumental music for two years. She then taught at Northwestern in Mellette, South Dakota, which is where she is still currently teaching. For the first 15 years at Northwestern, Wendy taught K-5 general music, 5th grade band, and middle school band. Then in 2012, Wendy switched job assignments and now currently teaches grades 5-12 instrumental music. Wendy is a member of the South Dakota Bandmasters, South Dakota Music Educators Association, the National Association for Music Education, and Phi Beta Mu. She was a founder and is still the current chairperson of the Northwestern Middle School Music Festival and of the South Dakota Bandmasters Elementary Music Contest that is held in Aberdeen, SD. Wendy has also been an active adjudicator for area elementary instrumental contests.
Wendy is active in the Mellette and Aberdeen area and serves as a board member of the Northwestern Community Foundation. She also serves as a pianist at the North Highland Methodist Church in Aberdeen. She enjoys playing trumpet in the Aberdeen City Band and also the Northern State University Concert Band. Wendy also enjoys giving private instruction on piano and other instruments. Besides her active involvement in music, Wendy also enjoys coaching middle school track in the spring.
Wendy and her husband, Eric, are proud parents of two wonderful kids. Miranda is attending Northern State University as a studio art major with a digital media minor and entrepreneurship minor. Josh is a sophomore at Northwestern High School who enjoys music and athletics. Wendy enjoys spending time with her family and has been a die-hard Vikings fan since 2nd grade and will forever be hopeful that they will win a Super Bowl in her lifetime.
Elizabeth Bengs is in her 12th year as the PK-12 music teacher for the Hoven School District where her duties include PK-6 general music, 5-12 instrumental music, and 7-12 vocal music. She grew up in Hosmer, SD and attended Edmunds Central High School. Mrs. Bengs earned her BME in Instrumental and Vocal Music Education from Northern State University in 2011. She is a member of the South Dakota Bandmasters Association, South Dakota Music Educators Association, the National Association for Music Education, and Phi Beta Mu.
Mrs. Bengs is active in her church, serving as a member of the worship committee, Sunday school teacher, and pianist. She has participated in Hoven’s Christmas on the Prairie concert, held in conjunction with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, since 2010. For this annual event, she is honored to serve as choral repertoire planner and director of the All-Faiths Choir.
Mrs. Bengs is thankful for the love and support of her family. She and her husband, Eric, have two children, Jase and Mayla. She enjoys spending time with her family, drinking coffee, and keeping up on all things Disney.
Mick Dragoo is the Instrumental Music Instructor at the Lead-Deadwood schools. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. Mick spent his first five years of teaching in Gordon, Nebraska teaching 5 – 12 band as well as three years of vocal music. During this time, he also was the bassist for the ever-popular Stagecoach Band.
In 1991, Mick moved with his wife to Deadwood to teach middle school band, music appreciation and choir in the Lead-Deadwood schools, which he did for the next ten years. He spent his 11th year as the 6 -12 instrumental teacher for the district. During the following six years, Mick pursued adventures outside of education. He returned to the fold in 2008 and has been teaching 6 – 12 band in Lead ever since. His duties include beginning band, middle school band, HS Symphonic Band, Mile High Jazz, The Marching Golddiggers and The Mile High Thunder, as well as a middle school appreciation class where he teaches the history of Rock and Roll. He has been an active member of the Northern Hills Community Band since 1991.
Mick is now living in Lead with his wife of 33 years and has two grown sons. He enjoys spending time with his family, working with wood, rooting for the Rockies and traveling, especially to the Disney parks.