Strong Musical Roots Nurture Dakota Star Duo
Thursday, October 3, 2019
The vocalists in the last round of the Dakota Star Talent Search at the 2019 South Dakota State Fair were a strong lineup. The pair of 20 year old college students had resided to the fact they were happy to have made it as far as they had. A few minutes later, Ted Van Alstyne and Hunter Widvey were standing front and center of the Freedom Stage as the winners of the Dakota Star. “Music is a passion we both share, which stems from the influence our families brought to our lives as far back as we can remember. Being chosen as Dakota Star was very exciting and it confirmed our desire to keep pursing music throughout college and the rest of their lives”, commented Hunter.
Hunter and Ted proudly declare themselves to be ‘church musicians’ as they both spent time cultivating their vocal and instrumental talents during countless church services. Hunter, the daughter of Brett and Cami Widvey, is a South Dakota girl who has spent half her life in Pierre and the other half in Rapid City. Ted is the son of Mark and Jill Van Alstyne and grew up in Helena, Montana. Ted made his way to Rapid City after graduating from high school. It was his grandmother, who did a little match making and encouraged the young singers to perform as a duo. With a blessing from a very happy grandmother, Ted and Hunter began dating.
Hunter had been attending Augustana University for a year when Ted, with the persuasion of his family members, decided to head to Augustana as well. Majoring in Music you would assume, but no, our Dakota Star Duo has chosen Pre-Med. “I love to learn new things and I enjoy the balance between working on my academics and having music as my hobby”, shared Ted. In between classes and exams, this talented couple still feed their musical appetite participating in the choir program at Augie, plus performing at a number of ‘gigs’ including community events and weddings.
Music has always been a family affair for both Ted and Hunter. “I remember singing hymns during church service on Sunday mornings and my mom would make sure I was using proper singing technique”, stated Miss Widvey. She recalls gathering her cousins and putting on adlib performances the rest of the family was required to sit and watch. Throughout her younger years, solo and choir performances of all kinds were a common thread for Hunter. Her next musical adventure will take her to California to sing in a PBS Special called, ‘The Celebration of Music’.
Ted remembers watching his father as a guitarist on stage with his rock band ‘Stonehouse’ and spending a lot of time playing guitar with his uncles and cousins. Ted’s father had previously toured South Dakota with an 80’s Rock Band by the name of ‘Pressure Point’. Growing up, Ted drummed with the family worship band composed of his dad on guitar, brother on bass and mom on the piano. “There was so much musical influence in my life, which fueled my interest in learning to play a number instruments and to write music as well”, added Mr. Van Alstyne.
It was actually Hunter’s parents providing the encouragement to compete for the Dakota Star. The decision to submit an entry was pushed off to the last minute, but Hunter was scheduled to be at in Huron to relinquish her title as ‘Miss Wheel Jam’ and Ted had never experienced the thrill of the South Dakota State Fair, so they decided to give it a try. They thought the judges might be looking for something a little more original, so Ted and Hunter chose to learn a unique mix of two Taylor Swift songs they found on YouTube and added a few twists of their own. It turned out to be the right decision. Even though our college students were running low on sleep and were a bit frazzled from traveling back and forth from Huron to Sioux Falls to keep up with school, they gave a very solid performance.
Along with the bragging rights to being chosen a Dakota Star, our duo won a $1,000 cash prize and a recording session with Cathouse Studios in Sioux Falls. Sporting his sense of humor, Ted joked he used his portion of the winnings to replace his stolen bike, pay a parking fine and buy some almond milk. Hunter, again encouraged by her parents, invested her prize money into a plane ticket to Nashville to try her hand at an American Idol audition. The couple intends to expand their presence in the music scene and plan to utilize the Cathouse Studios visit to make that happen. “We hope to record songs separately and together, as well as highlight some original pieces we each wrote”, explained Hunter. Where the road may lead for these aspiring artists is yet to be revealed, but it is safe to say there is much left to be told about the duo of Hunter and Ted (aka HUNTED).
The Dakota Star Talent Search is sponsored by Dakotaland Federal Credit Union and is a high visibility event for local artists and musicians to showcase their talent. It is hosted each year during the South Dakota State Fair and entries were submitted from across the state. Hunter and Ted were the winners of the adult category, while second place honors went to Jamie O’Neill and Sylvia Kattner of Huron and third place to Elizabeth Hofer of Bruce. In the junior category, top honors went to Harley VonEye of Watertown, second place to Kierra Abbas from Lennox and third place to Emmarie Kaiser of Winner.