As part of Guitar Player’s ongoing “Play It Forward” initiative, the magazine seeks to recognize talented teenaged guitarists. One of these endeavors is the Ronnie Montrose Rock the Nation Award, honoring young guitarists who aspire to greatness—which was founded by myself and Leighsa Montrose in 2014.
Emanuel on the red carpet with Leighsa Montrose.
As the award also pays tribute to the late Ronnie Montrose’s desire to educate children about music—as well as celebrate his formidable legacy as a guitarist—we have been fortunate to announce the 2016 and 2017 Rock the Nation honorees at vocalist/event producer Keith St. John’s Ronnie Montrose Remembered concerts during Winter NAMM. This year, the show was held January 21, at Santa Ana’s Yost Theater, and featured rockers such as Howard Leese, Brad Gillis, David Ellefson, and Rudy Sarzo performing Montrose songs in the guitarist’s honor.
St. John had actually recommended Los Angeles guitarist Skye Emanuel, 17, and in a wonderful example of “it was fated to happen,” Emanuel was ultimately selected as GP’s 2017 Ronnie Montrose Rock the Nation Award winner. The young player also won a spot on the Ronnie Montrose Remembered stage (performing “Paper Money”), a groovy gold medal (gotta have those bragging rights—he earned it), and a soon-to-be announced prize package.
The Rock the Nation Award winner performing “Paper Money” with former Montrose vocalist Keith St. John.
Emanuel’s current rig includes an Ernie Ball Music Man Albert Lee model and a Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster (both strung with Ernie Ball Regular Slinkys, gauged .010-.046), a Mesa/Boogie 50 Caliber Plus, a Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah, a TC Electronic Spark Booster, and assorted Dirty Boy pedals (“Hands down, the best pedals around”).
“My biggest inspiration is Brian May,” says Emanuel. “I love his style, tone, riffs, and everything about him. Other major influences of mine include Blues Saraceno, Eddie Van Halen, and Richie Kotzen. Watching people play the guitar when I was younger was enough to make me want to do it myself. The first time I plugged into an amp, I was hooked. The idea of being able to play and progress fascinated me, and I haven’t been able to put the instrument down since. I like to say, ‘Love what you do, love what you play, and make it all count.’”
Emanuel joins past Rock the Nation honorees Max Lazarus (2014) and Jess Araten and Geddy Franco (2016).
“I like effects and guitar sounds constantly changing right along with the dynamics of a song. For example, I want the choruses sounding completely different from the verses. I hate it when a guitar tone is the same throughout an entire set. I dance on my pedalboard so much during our shows that my muscle memory is locked into specific pedal positions. It’s instinctive. If I moved a pedal to a different spot, or if I changed out a pedal for something new, I fear that I’d be totally lost.”
—Tom Edwards, Guitarist and Musical Director for Adam Ant, who died tragically of suspected heart failure at 41 years old on January 25, 2017.