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16-Year-Old Guitarist From Montgomery County To Perform At Pre-Grammy Concert

By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- This is Grammy week in Los Angeles.

"I'm insanely excited like this is probably the best musical opportunity I've ever had. It feels pretty surreal honestly."

The words bubble out of Jess Araten, a petite, golden-haired musician holding a slim, electric guitar.

Wednesday night, this 16-year-old guitarist from Montgomery County will have her first L.A. gig on a very big stage, as part of an opening act for a pre-Grammy concert.

Music is Jess's passion. She bought her first guitar at Toys R Us at age nine.

"From my first lesson, I've been in love with the instrument. It's been an amazing journey."

On Wednesday at Club Nokia, that journey approaches a crossroads, with the 2015 Grammy Awards.

Jess and seven other top teenage musicians from around the country, who studied at a summer Grammy Camp will be the opening act for Hunter Hayes.

Jess giggles as she says, "We're opening for Hunter Hayes."

The expected crowd of more than 2,000 is a long way from the industrial, office-park space in Fort Washington that's The School of Rock.

Jess's Dad, Michael says, his daughter's first concert drew an audience of 30, when she was nine.

"She got the guitar when she was nine-years-old," said Araten. "And there hasn't been a day when she hasn't played since, I don't think. We never once asked to practice. It's all coming from her."

Jess shows the stage comfort and rock style of a veteran with her guitar in hand. She inhabits the rhythm which seems to set her up for her own "layered" sound, using what she calls – the contraption.

"I have a loop pedal. Basically, you record yourself live you tap the pedal to play back what you just played and you can sort of play a one person band."

The coordination to achieve the sound takes a ultimate multi-tasker.

Jess, who is a Junior at Germantown Academy, says she draws on a "weird mix" of blues, hip-hop and alternative music, blends it together and feels inspired.

She describes herself as young and dedicated.

"I'd rather get rejected than not go for an opportunity. That's something that sets me apart."

Jess is happy to see more female guitarists in the music industry. But has her own clear vision.

"I want to be seen as a good guitarist not a good guitarist for a girl," said Jess. "I think we can do everything that men can. The music world is changing."

For the Grammy camp, Jess had to audition and was chosen from among thousands for a spot at the New York venue. The "alumni" band for the Wednesday concert was drawn from the smaller pool of campers.

"They sent us the songs and they sent us the cord charts and stuff," said Jess. "I've been practicing that for a while, and I know the stuff."

A proud Dad describes Jess as one of those rare talents that you could only dream about.

"It's always a little nerve wracking to send your kids out into the world, especially in the entertainment business. You try to protect your kid all the time. We're flying out with her, so that helps a little."

It seems only fitting as Jess Araten's first "roadie."

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