Synergy between generations

Guitarists John Standefer and Brooks Robertson will perform in Washougal

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In age they are separated by nearly 40 years, but nationally renowned fingerstyle guitarists John Standefer and Brooks Robertson call themselves “two peas in a pod.”

“There is a synergy there,” Standefer said.

Both had been annually attending and performing at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Conference in Nashville for years, but they never spoke much until this past summer. Realizing they only lived minutes apart, Standefer in Orchards and Robertson in Portland, they vowed to get together after returning home.

“We felt the magic immediately and quickly built a great relationship,” Standefer said. “Ever since our first meeting, we have been dedicated to forming the duo and we’ve been focused seriously on selecting popular tunes of all genres and eras to develop great new guitar duets that audiences will love.”

Robertson, 23, and Standefer, 62, will perform together in Washougal on Saturday, Feb. 16. The concert begins at 7 p.m., at the Washburn Performing Arts Center. They will play original compositions as well as classic fingerstyle guitar music created by well-known artists including Jerry Reed, Tommy Emanuel and Chet Atkins. There will also be performances of tunes that are widely popular, but not normally played on guitar, including those by Cyndi Lauper, Louis Armstrong and Stevie Wonder.

“There will be blues, country, pop and jazz,” Standefer said. “A little bit of everything.”

Standefer said he is excited to add another dimension to his career after nearly 50 years in the music business. It’s been a passion that began at the age of 14, when Standefer heard an Atkins tune on a jukebox, and it changed his life.

“Something just snapped in me instantly, and I became a finger picker that day,” Standefer said. “When the bug bit, you couldn’t pry a guitar out of my hand. You forget about all social engagements. I was playing six to seven hours a day.”

Standefer, who comes from a family of singers and musicians, was taught as a child to play the guitar in the styles of Atkins and Merle Travis.

When he was still a teenager, Standefer earned his teaching certificate from a music conservatory, and was soon working as an instructor, touring with bands, and playing gigs in clubs.

He then wrote jazz arrangements for gospel tunes and recorded CDs of his music. This led to teaching guitar to music directors at churches across America as part of his “Praise Guitar Workshop.”

He has performed concerts in Hawaii, Florida, Texas and Alaska and toured Japan, and has several CDs to his credit.

In 2002, Standefer won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship held in Kansas and in 2004 he was the open division winner of the Home of the Legends International Thumbpicking Championship in Central City, Ky.

Standefer lived in the Camas-Washougal area for 24 years before moving to the Vancouver area several years ago.

Robertson grew up in Eugene, Ore., and started playing fingerstyle guitar at the age of 12 after seeing master guitarist Buster B. Jones perform.

“It sounded like there were two or three guitars playing, but there was just one guy,” Robertson said. “That fascinated me.”

He soon began studying with Jones, who identified Robertson’s natural talent. Jones was Robertson’s mentor until his death in 2009.

Although still young, Robertson has a list of accomplishments to his credit. He has performed at the Nokie Edwards Festival and the National Association of Music Merchants Show in Anaheim, the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kan.

As a teenager, he was the youngest endorsee of Godin Guitars and traveled to several states and foreign countries to perform. He also played Garrison Keillor’s National Public Radio classic “A Prairie Home Companion” in 2004, where he won first place in a talent competition for 12 to 20 year old participants.

Today, he teaches guitar and performs regularly at venues throughout the Portland area.

Standefer said he has been enjoying playing with Robertson, who he describes as a “rising star.” The duo has already invested a couple hundred hours into practicing and perfecting songs that will be performed during the upcoming concert, which has become an annual tradition that Standefer started in 2004.

“It’s like a rejuvenation at my age to work with somebody so young,” Standefer said. “We are just two peas in a pod. We don’t even talk that much. We just play and nod.”

Tickets, $14 in advance, to “Brooks & John,” can be pre-purchased at Tickets at the door will be $17.