Rico Stover at his home in Twisp. Photo by Marcy Stamper
BY MARCY STAMPER
Guitarist Rico Stover took a break the other day from pruning trees and renovating his modest house in Twisp, but these projects will be set aside as he prepares for a concert in conjunction with receiving the Artistic Achievement Award from the Guitar Foundation of America next month.
Stover will accept the award for achievement at the foundation’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., in June. As part of the honor, Stover will give a concert and premier his composition based on a popular Romance for guitar, including variations influenced by Brazilian Bossa Nova, Latin American dance rhythms and the finger-picking of Chet Atkins.
Stover has devoted more than five decades to the guitar, combining scholarly research into Latin American music and composers with gigs at resorts in Hawaii and Las Vegas and at topless bars in San Francisco. “I’ve worked every conceivable music job under the universe,” he said.
Stover has also published compilations of music – in particular, a collection that shows the wide variety of music from Latin and South America – and an academic treatise on a Paraguayan composer.
The Guitar Foundation says it presents the annual Achievement Award to performers, composers and scholars who have made monumental contributions to the development of the classical guitar.
While honored to be inducted into the Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Stover said, “The way a person feels about what they’ve been doing all their life – if they’re enjoying it – that’s their own recognition.”
Stover said the formal recognition is primarily for his role in investigating and promoting the dramatic differences between music from across Latin America through extensive study and field work. Although there are some 20 countries in Latin America, for years that music was lumped together in a world that focused on Spanish classical guitar, said Stover.
“Brazil is not like Peru or Mexico or Puerto Rico, in terms of the instruments, harmony, rhythm or meter,” said Stover. He said awareness of the differences has increased in the past few decades and likes to think he has contributed “in some small way.”
Stover bought his first guitar as an exchange student in Costa Rica during his junior year in high school and was immediately consumed by the instrument. “In my senior year I was a disaster,” he said. “All I wanted to do was practice the guitar.”
He formed a folk trio after high school that was successful on the touring circuit until the Beatles’ appearance on the scene “changed everything.”
A year studying music in Argentina launched Stover on his current path. “That was the beginning of my realization that the guitar in Latin America was a monster,” he said.
As a life-long guitarist – who played four hours a night, five nights a week at hotels – Stover has also devoted his energies to the practical side of guitar playing. He has published a comprehensive book about fingernail care for guitarists and developed a system for affixing artificial fingernails without the use of toxic adhesives.
After splitting their time between Twisp and Paraguay for the past three years, Stover and flutist Jananne Lovett, Stover’s partner in life and in music, have settled in Twisp year-round.
The two, as Rico and Jananne, play regularly in a duo, featuring Latin American music, jazz standards and original compositions. They have two performances scheduled at the Twisp River Suites, on Friday (May 31) from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and on June 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. They often appear at Open Merc.