April 25, 1971, Derek Rieth may have been born a gift to his mother, but in the end of his short life he became a gift to thousands. Through the Derek Rieth Foundation that has been created by his girlfriend Tadimdia Bridges in honor of him, his life will continue to impact future generations of musicians.
The world saw him on stage, beating rhythms with his bare hands, peeking over at fellow band members or guests that would join them on stage, flashing his infectious smile. I saw him as a young kid wearing blue jeans, sneakers, jersey shirts, running around school playground during recess and talking about how nasty lunch tasted that day and comparing our cool marbles. Derek was never one to want to be in the spotlight, always willing to take a backseat if it meant his friends would prevail. One of the things that intrigues me about Derek is that he was not the person that was successful in the music world by spending his youth drowning in practice or attending music classes. As shared by his childhood best friend Rich Lieser, Rich and Derek had a job together after graduation and Derek shared that he was going to learn how to play the drums. As any best friend would do, Rich responded with support, but thought perhaps this was just a hobby Derek wanted to take up.
Twenty years later, he proves to be the result of hard work and dedication to a passion that can start right now. Derek’s bio includes making television show appearances, found in numerous review articles, traveled worldwide, co-founded the Lions of Batucada, a Brazilian-style percussion ensemble. He performed with Jujuba, GoGrinGoGo, and Free Beat Nation, a Marching Brass band in the style of Maracatu. He has spread his inspiration all over the world touching lives in the most positive way everywhere he roamed, including mine.
One morning while at work, I received a call from a dear friend of mine sharing the tragic passing of Derek who unbeknownst to me was suffering from bi-polar disorder. On a personal note, I am deeply saddened at the loss of my childhood friend and grateful for the moments we had together even in the last year before his passing. He taught me such a valuable lesson in our meeting and a message I will never forget. He said, “you aren’t ‘going to do’ you ARE doing it. And THAT’S what you need to convey when you talk to people.” Without skipping a beat, he sat on his cajon and played an African rhythm for me.
September 7, 2014 I entered the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon where I sat amongst a crowd of grieving hearts. Derek’s sister Heather spoke beautiful thoughts of her big brother. At sunset, beats marched through streets of downtown Portland in honor of Derek. From Pioneer Square to the waterfront where the moon lit up the sky, musicians, friends, and family gathered together to do what would have pleased Derek the most–smiling, dancing, being with friends and family–MAKING THUNDER to be heard around the world!!
In closing, I want to share the information for the Derek Rieth Foundation. I know it would make Derek proud to know he was the inspiration. The mission is to put musical instruments into the hands of the youth that would not be able to afford it on their own. I know many others can make a difference with music if only given the chance and collectively, we can make that happen. Please consider making a contribution to this benefit.