Rock the Nation Winners Jess Araten & Geddy Franco

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[Top photo, left to right: Derek St. Holmes, Linda Vega, Leighsa Montrose, Jess Araten, Geddy Franco, Michael Molenda, and Brad Whitford on the red carpet at the Ronnie Montrose Remembered concert. All photos by Alex Kluft.]

The 2016 Ronnie MontroseRock the Nation award winners Jess Araten, 17, and Geddy Franco, 15, were presented their medals onstage at Keith St. John's Ronnie Montrose Remembered concert on January 23, by Leighsa Montrose, Steve Stevens, and yours truly.

Stevens also presented the two teenagers with their very own Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional PRO guitars — both in "Montrose approved" sunburst finishes — provided by this year's prize sponsor, Epiphone

The teen power duo then joined vocalist St. John, drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, and bassist Brad Lang to perform Montrose's "Spaceage Sacrifice" to a sold-out crowd at Santa Ana's Observatory theater.

In addition to Stevens, the tribute included guitarists Gilby Clarke, Brad Whitford, Derek St. Holmes, Brad Gillis, Julian Coryell, Doug Aldrich, Marc Bonilla, CJ Hutchins, and others paying respect to Montrose by wailing on songs such as "Rock Candy," "Free Ride," "Rock the Nation," "I Got the Fire," "Open Fire," "Town Without Pity," and other tunes written by, or associated with the late guitarist.

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The 2016 Ronnie Montrose Rock the Nation award is part of a year-long, Play It Forward initiative between Guitar Player, Guitar World, and Guitar Aficionado to encourage and inspire players of all ages to take up guitar playing — either for the very first time, or as a return to the instrument after a long layoff. We want everyone to enjoy the thrill of playing guitar. Stay tuned for more Play It Forward content and events as the year unfolds.

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Steve Stevens, Leighsa Montrose, and Michael Molenda about to award Jess Araten and Geddy Franco with their Rock the Nation medals and two Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Traditional PRO guitars.

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Jess Araten slides into the main riff from "Spaceage Sacrifice" as Keith St. John sings, "He was a good man/he meant no harm..."

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Geddy Franco soloing on "Spaceage Sacrifice."

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Keith St. John brings Franco and Araten back to the stage after their performance to answer a few questions and take another bow.

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