In lifes commitments, pianist hit right notes

Stina SiegGlenwood Springs Colorado CO

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Upon first meeting John Riger, what strikes you is just how deeply he believes. In what? In short: himself, his purpose, the universe. For a longer explanation, well, thats a story.Part of the answer is music. Continuing tonight, Riger, 49, and his piano will fill the Redstone Inn with holiday and jazz tunes. As he spoke about his art and life, his eye contact was constant. He sounded fearless, describing his connection with God, and with everything that has led him to right here, right now.It seems the Redstone gig is a continuation of a life behind the piano. It began when he was little, figuring out the keys on his own. His father, a classically trained musician, wasnt his mentor, only helping him when he got stuck. Like so many times in his life, Riger had to look inside himself and figure out what he truly wanted to say.I have my own voice, he said, eyes shining with intensity, but Im not really sure what mine is.Though Riger was unable to name it, it was clear he could feel it. He had been in bands since seventh grade, but didnt truly find that voice until 15 years ago.Its a moment he doesnt think most will comprehend. He isnt sure he does. As he explains it, all of a sudden, he was hit with the understanding of the microtone, a tiny musical interval. In that moment, he was flooded with a new musical vocabulary. He was privy to all that hidden, complicated math behind the songs. He was awake to the music. As he plays today, he knows hes channeling what he discovered in that instant.Its an inspired experience, he said, I just happen to be in the way of the music, but its not me. His love for music is palpable. But again, his beliefs are bigger than that. Riger just published a book, First Impressions, which details the three-month honeymoon he took with his wife, Libby. It was 1978, and the pair hitchhiked to Colorado from the East Coast. Of course, their experiences were deep and many, but there was one in particular he chose to mention. It was when a trucker bestowed on him a few words that, to this day, have never faded:Commit to yourself and be the very best that you can be.Riger took it to heart. He and his wife made a conscious decision at that point to live with a sense of freedom and conviction. They followed their souls, refused to be swayed by everyone around them. They just went down the road, and it felt right.I had the strength of knowing who I was and what I wanted to do and an insatiable desire to learn things, he said. Its that sense of self and listening to the heart that brought him here, to the Roaring Fork Valley, at the trips end. Its what pushed him to apply for a job at the Colorado Division of Wildlifes Crystal River Hatchery, where he spent a full career. Its guiding him today, now that hes retiring, and the world is wide open yet again.He spoke of philosophy, big ideas. Trying to illustrate his feelings, he mentioned a poem by Robert Frost. Youll know it, the famous one, about the two paths.One of them is known and one of them is unknown, he said. And Im going to take the one that is unknown, because its never failed me before.When youre sitting with Riger, the line between belief and reality blurs. He feels he can do anything. And before long, youre thinking to yourself: Well, who is to say hes wrong?For more information on Riger, his new book or CD, A Jazz Christmas, visit his Web site, Stina Sieg: 384-9111ssieg@postindependent.comPost Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado

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