Young South Dakota guitarist looking to make it big

Published: Apr. 18, 2022 at 5:22 PM CDT
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FLANDREAU, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A young guitarist from Arlington, South Dakota is getting a chance to showcase his skills on the big stage.

Rylee Chavez, 17, is a finalist for the Dallas International Guitar Festival Ten Under 20 Competition.

Rylee says the opportunity is a kickstart to the next five years of his playing career.

“I’m going to end up in a mildly-successful jam band. That’s the goal!” Chavez said.

Rylee’s musical journey began about four years ago when he was gifted a ukelele for Christmas.

“After a month or so of playing that, I got curious and I picked up the electric guitar, and just started playing that, and never really looked back,” Chavez said.

Since then, he’s been working hard to master his craft and the long hours have paid off as he’s punched his ticket to a highly regarded competition.

“I couldn’t believe I got in at first,” Chavez said. “I got really, really lucky and I’m fortunate to have made it.”

Rylee’s father, Russ, says luck has nothing to do with it.

“This is above and beyond, he can make this dream come true, and he puts the time and effort into it,” Russ Chavez said about his son. “This competition is going mean everything to him, and get him national exposure, possibly.”

Rylee says quarantine during the pandemic provided him with a lot of time to be alone with his guitar.

“If you practice, practice, practice, you’ll get there with most stuff, I think,” Rylee said.

Since last summer, Rylee has been playing with The Barn Flies, a local band out of Flandreau.

Rylee’s bandmate, Casey Wilson, would love for him to stick around, but knows the young man is destined to go places.

“We told him that this is kind of a temporary gig for him because we want to see him go on beyond our regional band,” Wilson said.

Rylee says the live performances with The Barn Flies have provided him the experience he needs for what’s next, the big show in Dallas.

“I’m just going to play as hard as I can and I’m just going to enjoy playing,” Rylee said about his upcoming performance.

While humble about his talent, those around him know Rylee has a real shot to win it all.

“I have nothing but faith in Rylee, he won’t surprise me anymore,” Russ said.

Wilson agrees, adding, “he can go as far as he wants.”

The competition will be held on May 1st.

The trip to Dallas will be a bit expensive, so Chavez and The Barn Flies are playing a gig Friday, April 22 as a fundraiser.

It’ll be at their usual venue, Sioux River Spirits and Mercantile, in downtown Flandreau. Locals know it as the “Merc.”

You can also make a contribution to Chavez’s Go Fund Me page if you wish to help him out with travel costs.

Follow Rylee on Instagram @chavezguitar.

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