The Weaving Together of Story, Music and Imagination

By Courtney Smith

Imagine this: a powerful horse slowly approaches. You can see the ripple of muscle and tendon over flank and bone; inhale the earthy smell of grass and horse-body as he approaches and feel the intensity contained within his powerful stride. The whuffle of breath escaping his nostrils is warm in the air and you yearn to reach out and stroke the velvety softness of his nose. As he nears and your gaze rises, you connect eye to eye. He looks at you—steady, unblinking and focused. His stillness is motion and energy suspended. And you realize as he holds your gaze that he has been waiting for this moment. He looks deeply into your eyes until you recognize the familiarity of him. You step closer; run your hand across his warm shoulder and up his neck. And without hesitation you climb up, settle in and begin the adventure of a lifetime.

Sounds like the beginning of a great story, or a scene from the Narnia Chronicles, doesn’t it? In actuality, this powerful horse-as-guide appeared to Connie Regan-Blake as she began a journey into her imagination during a Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) session with me—music therapist and wellness practitioner at Source for Well-Being in Black Mountain, NC. It was the first time Connie and I met and after the session, we knew that we wanted to work together again.

I was delighted with Connie’s engagement into the realm of symbolism, archetype, and myth; and her rich and detailed narration of her GIM adventures left us both breathless and wanting to know more of her unfolding journey. It was no surprise for me to learn that Connie’s life has been dedicated to the telling of stories and the sharing of hero’s journeys—her own, those of her listeners and especially the characters she shares. As the daughter of a poet and storyteller myself, I recognized the twinkle in her eye as she spoke and the way she pulled me in as she narrated her adventure.

As our relationship turned into friendship I learned that Connie Reagan-Blake is one of America’s most celebrated storytellers and a treasured WNC woman. She has captivated the hearts and imaginations of people around the globe with her powerful performances and workshops. Entertaining audiences in 47 states and 17 countries, she brings the wisdom, humor and drama of stories to main stage concert halls, libraries, storytelling and folk festivals and even into the corporate world.

Both as a solo artist and a member of the acclaimed Folktellers duo, Connie has been featured on seven award-winning recordings—five audios and two videos produced by PBS. New Age Magazine, School Library Journal, and Southern Living have praised her work. She has been a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered, ABC’s Good Morning America and CNN.

Connie has performed at the nation’s top folk music and storytelling festivals in Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, as well as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. She has traveled to Africa, New Zealand and Australia to share her work and listen to indigenous stories wherever she goes. “Hearing a story reminds all of us that we’re doing something our ancestors did hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It’s almost genetic,” Connie says. It’s a special craft because, unlike most performing arts, anyone can learn to tell a decent story over the dinner table. In fact, Connie teaches workshops to people at all levels, from lawyers who want to improve their courtroom performances to budding professional storytellers.

Her groundbreaking collaboration with the Kandinsky Trio—an innovative blend of storytelling and chamber music—was hailed as a “new art form.” That collaboration between story and music continues with the combination of Connie’s stories and my musical journeying. Once the idea of weaving our two crafts together formed, the path seemed to unfold before us. We created a three-day workshop combining the power of music and the power of story to change lives.

“Heeding the Call: Claiming Your Story” is the result of our combined talents. Throughout a weekend, we weave together story and music to create a canvas of colors, experiences, sounds, images and imaginings that uncover aspects of the self, reveal inner truths, and highlight each participant’s process of living their own hero’s journey.

Journeying is the basis for my work as a music therapist at Source for Well Being (voted #1 Alternative Wellness Center of WNC). The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) is a music-assisted therapy that offers individuals the opportunity to integrate mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of themselves in a transformational way. GIM is characterized by the use of sequenced musical programs designed to stimulate and sustain a dynamic unfolding of imagery experiences.

Those music and imagery experiences are direct reflections of an individual’s personal relationships, feelings, and identity. The traveler may have glimpses of transpersonal inspiration which both challenge and nurture the sense of self and who you can become. Creativity is often awakened.

Connie says, “A good storyteller leads you to a window you’ve never noticed before in a dusty corner of your mind. Then she opens that window and shows you a world you didn’t know existed or had forgotten was there.” The musical journeying of GIM opens doors into worlds you never imagined possible. Our combination of story, music, poetry, and song have already been powerful for those who have attended the workshop.

“These elements [story and music] were inseparable parts of the whole experience. The selections of poetry were perfect for connecting the concepts and ideas we were exploring. The music grounded me in my body, as did the advice to listen in a deep physical way for the story to emerge. Deeply listening to stories of others also supported a grounded interpersonal and physical connections.” *participant’s evaluation at the end of the weekend

We will hold our next workshop in Asheville on April 27-29. After gathering together on Friday evening we will immerse ourselves in story. Participants will hear stories told, share their own stories and look briefly at the aspects of the Hero’s Journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell. I will introduce the power of music to enhance our personal experiences and Connie will share with us new ways to listen.

On Saturday, we will delve more deeply into the different phases of the Hero’s Journey. By using story, music, art, poetry, journaling, writing and guided imagery, each attendee will have the opportunity to examine who they are and where they are going, and to embrace the story of their own hero’s journey that lies within. On Sunday we’ll reflect on our experiences, shine the light on new versions of the stories we tell and examine ways to integrate them into our lives.

As one participant said at the end, “I left with a new vision of myself, one that I will continue to grow with.”

Connie and I invite each and every woman (and man) to come and join us for a transformational weekend on “Heeding the Call: Claiming Your Story,” in Asheville on April 27, 28, and 29th. For more information, please go to Connie’s website: www.storywindow.com

Courtney Smith is a professional Trainer and Consultant for Barium Springs. She travels around the state and also nationally facilitating organizational change, writing and developing curricula, and delivering training to leadership, managers, social workers, therapists and other human service professionals. She holds degrees in music therapy and counseling. Courtney has completed all her coursework at Appalachian State University is working on her supervision hours to become a Guided Imagery and Music Fellow. She practices at Source for Well Being in Black Mountain, NC. 828-413-7269 courtney@sourceforwellbeing.com csmith@bariumsprings.org

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