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Jank song contest in St. Charles to award major prize to Tri-Cities youth

ST. CHARLES – A contest posing a creative challenge to Tri-Cities students scores a powerful incentive with a major monetary prize through The Jank Guitar Store in St. Charles. It offers the opportunity to compete across an array of performing arts mediums.

The premise is for contestants to take the song called “The Road,” by Casely and The Jank, and make it their own, whether as a musical cover or remix or interpreting it through dance. The contest entry will be a YouTube video of the reimagined number.

Scott Corbin of St. Charles, owner of The Jank Guitar Store, said youth ages 10 to 19 will not be limited to guitar, but can play any instruments, choose to sing or make it strictly instrumental, or opt to dance. Videos can be submitted through Aug. 25, and the winner will be announced Dec. 15.

Corbin said the grand prize of $10,000 for the student is just part of the reward.

“We wanted to be able to contribute in addition, [so] the student’s school wins $2,000 for its music program, and the [winner’s] city receives $2,000, as well,” Corbin said.

He hit the road to spread word of the contest through presentations at Tri-Cities public and private schools and before city officials.

“Basically, the idea behind the contest is it’s a competition for creative talent for the local youth,” Corbin said. “It’s about creativity and interpretation. Local students get to compete on behalf of themselves, their school and their city.”

He said he hopes the winning student will use the money for educational pursuits. The winner’s community also has complete freedom with its prize winnings.

He said jank is a guitar-driven style of music in the pop pantheon. His Jank Guitar Store, 217 W. Main St., in downtown St. Charles, focuses on guitar lessons taught through its patented “Press - Play - Record” method of teaching. The business will celebrate its second anniversary in June.

Two friends already have teamed up to work on their contest entry. They are Tatum Settelmyer of St. Charles, an eighth-grader at Haines Middle School, and Ava Niemela of Geneva, a sixth-grader at Geneva Middle School North.

They met to practice recently at the Bombshell blowout boutique in St. Charles, owned by Tatum’s mother.

The session found the two exchanging riffs, and Ava offering the option of ukulele in addition to guitar, which they both study at The Jank Guitar Store.

Tatum, part of the orchestra at her school, hopes to include her piano and violin skills, and capitalize on Ava’s singing voice.

“It’s an awesome song,” Tatum said of “The Road.” “And the lyrics are nice.”

It’s a lesson about the journey of life, Ava said, adding, “I like the music, too.”

An incentive to enter is the potential nest egg for their respective college funds.

But their shared love of music is a prime motivator.

“You can be yourself [in music] – there’s no wrong or right,” Tatum said. “I love playing. I can get all my emotions out.”

“It’s a good escape from reality,” Ava said. “You can let everything out – sad [or] happy.”

For Corbin, who not only teaches but is a professional studio guitarist, music calls him on the road to perform across the country. He grew up in St. Charles and returned to make the community his home base, praising its vibrancy.

He said it is fun to offer the contest.

“We wanted to provide that type of opportunity – encouraging and supporting youth in the arts is our mission,” he said. “I grew up in St. Charles. I never had an opportunity like this. We’ve worked to give back to the community and [to give kids] an opportunity to be recognized for what they do.”

Corbin said the cost to enter is $3 to sign up online, which covers registration and provides the rights to access the music and lyrics for the contest video. All the instructions for students and parents are available at

He said “The Road” song contest encourages excellence in artistic expression.

“This contest not only gives young people of the Tri-Cities an outlet for their creative aspirations, but also showcases the region’s amazing talent,” Corbin said.

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