Born in Germany in 1970, Teja Gerken began his journey on the guitar at the age of six and became a serious student of the instrument after his family moved to California in the mid ’80s.
Today, Teja is no stranger to those familiar with contemporary steel-string fingerstyle guitar. Weaving together influences of folk, jazz, classical, and world music into a style that is uniquely his own, Teja’s playing reflects his diverse musical interests. While many of his composition employ alternate tunings, two-handed tapping, percussive effects, and other extended guitar techniques, others simply rely on his keen sense of melody and movement. Within this framework, Teja has created a repertoire that appeals to fellow guitarists as well as to listening audiences, and while original material is his main focus, he can also be found playing Irish traditionals, the occasional jazz standard, or improvising on themes by classical composers.
An active participant in the vibrant San Francisco Bay Area acoustic music scene, Teja is a regular performer at many of the region’s venues. A firm believer in creating community, he has hosted frequent acoustic guitar showcases and frequently introduces international talent to Bay Area audiences.
Teja has shared the stage with guitar visionaries such as John Renbourn, Alex de Grassi, Peter Finger, and Henry Kaiser, as well as with his mentors, Duck Baker and Peppino D’Agostino. He has been a featured guest at the International Guitar Night, as well as on radio stations such as San Francisco’s KALW and KUSF, and Berkeley’s KPFA. In 2000, he began adding annual concerts in Germany to his performance calendar, and in 2004, he participated in a ten-city tour of Hungary.
Teja’s debut album On My Way has received critical acclaim since its release in 1999. “This sounds as if Michael Hedges, Paco De Lucia, and Bill Monroe are all fighting over a guitar,” says the music review website Listen.com, which goes on to say that “this exceptional musician combines elements of folk, jazz, bluegrass and just about any style you can think of, into his seamless, lightning speed guitar workouts. Gerken plays World Fusion without losing his own identity or watering down styles.” The UK’s Folk Roots adds, “very impressive technique, and tuneful,” and Dirty Linen calls Teja “a fine technical player.” The composition Her Red Hair was featured on a Best of Contemporary Instrumental Music sampler CD by Germany’s Laika Records in fall 2002. Teja released his second album Postcards in 2005.
Besides performing and recording, Teja also writes about guitars, guitarists, and related subjects. He was a senior editor at Acoustic Guitar magazine from 1997 to 2013, and he has contributed to Guitar Player, Premier Guitar, InTune, Fretboard Journal, Akustik Gitarre, Gitarre & Bass, and other publications. In 2014, he co-founded Peghead Nation, an online e-leaning environment with video instruction for guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele, fiddle, and dobro.