|Photo by Michael Shumate|
Whole Music Experience: You gave up your corporate career to pursue a mission of sound healing and promoting the healing benefits of drumming. What event triggered this bold move for you?
Karen Renée Robb: Music and singing have been an important part of my life since I was a little girl. I started out as a voice performance major in college, but ended up with a business degree. I spent 25 years in the high-tech, digital music and musical instrument industry. In the summer of 2012, I was researching music therapy for a technology company I worked for. I had a number of profound personal experiences during that time where my singing for others in a therapeutic setting shifted the energy of the person and the room.
I had a huge “a-ha” moment while singing for a friend who was in hospice care, dying from
cancer. While I was singing for her everything in the room stood still and a peace came over her and me that I will never forget. In that moment, I recognized with all of my being that service for another person was more important then all of the widgets and physical things I had helped create over the years. A light switch went off that I consider Spirit awakening me to the true power of my voice, sound and music.
It became clear to me fairly quickly that the company's needs for my work and what I was being called to do, no longer matched. I left at the end of 2012 and started The Music City Alliance for Sound & Music Healing in Nashville, Tennessee. The connection with the frame drum came in January of 2013.
WME: You quote Beethoven on your website: “Music is the mediator between life of senses and life of spirit.” The drum is both a spirit-caller and an in-the-body sensual experience. How does this quote apply to your work?
KRR: My first experience with the frame drum happened in January of 2013. Previously to that, I would not have considered myself a drummer. A friend shared a TEDx talk video done by Eliana Gilad (Voices of Eden) with me. During her talk she sang into the frame drum. As soon as I saw her do it, I knew immediately that I was supposed to do it as well. It comes so naturally. I sense it is a remembering from a previous life time when I was a healer.
My personal exploration with sounding into the frame drum vocally, led me to start drumming over people for sound vibration massage experiences. It is as if the drum has a primal force that awakens and enlivens the soul when we have a safe and encouraging place to engage with it.
The combination of singing, sounding into the drum and drumming over people stirs up the
mind, body, emotions, and Spirit in a very profound way. Most people can't really speak words about how it feels, because it is a feeling they don't normally experience in their daily lives. Beyond words.
I am grateful to be able to help others find their unique sound vibration through their voice and innate heartbeat rhythm using the frame drum. It is a new (yet old) way to explore our whole human being-ness. We are each a musical, creative instrument that is awakened through singing, sounding and drumming.
WME: Who are your main clients? Who do you most desire to work with?
KRR: I have a very wide range of clients. I work with hospice, therapists, addiction recovery
programs, people diagnosed with Alzhiemer's and Parkinson's, and people who are just interested in connecting with their voice and a drum. I am willing to share this work with anyone who is interested. Since it is new to our Western culture, I courageously show up with my frame drum in all sorts of places. Once I start drumming over one person, a line usually forms of interested onlookers.
The only way for people to understand the power of it is to experience it for themselves.
In terms of my workshops and presentations, the vast majority of people who come to learn how to do these vocal and drumming techniques are women in their 40s to 70s. I really get excited knowing that women are being drawn to it and it is helping them to connect powerfully with their own authentic voice.
WME: Which aspect of your sound healing & drumming work is the most fulfilling for you? You mention, “communal music-making” on your website.
KRR: Once people have taken the Introduction to Frame Drum Wisdom workshop I teach, most purchase a frame drum of their own. I hold circle gatherings about once a week where drum carriers come together to support each other, practice our sounding and drumming techniques and create beautiful, spontaneous music together. It is a time where we can feel that everyone's voice is an important part of the symphony of life and music making. We don't have many ways to commune together that way anymore it seems.
The sounding drum circle provides a safe place where people can just be themselves and let their sound out with no judgement. It is really beautiful! Some have said the music made sounds like a choir of angels singing or heaven. It is truly profound when most of the people in the circle at some point in their life was told that they couldn't sing. The most fulfilling part for me is when I hear someone who at some point hated their voice or have been uncomfortable expressing themselves, come to find the beauty of it and are willing to sound it out, loud and proud. To me it is another aspect of their healing journey finally revealed. Liberation!
WME: What are your musical and spiritual backgrounds that led you on this path?
KRR: Growing up I studied piano, french horn, and voice. Our home was full of all styles of
music. My Dad loved listening to classical music, classic rock, pop, adult contemporary and
even new age styles. Music has always been a valuable tool and experience for me. I enjoyed
playing instruments, but found that using my voice was the most meaningful. While in the
corporate realm I always found ways to use my voice outside of work, performing and singing in all sorts of places. Focusing my life towards advocating and participating in sound and music for healing and well-being, feels very natural for me. And I am passionate about sharing it with anyone who is interested.
In terms of my spiritual background, I was raised Catholic throughout my childhood, became a Unity student for almost 20 years starting after college and in the last 5 years have left religious institutions to follow my own Spirit-guided path. I enjoy connecting with others in circles, where everyone's voice is honored and respected. I find a deep resonance with Native American culture and spiritual practices and sense I am on a shamanic path. But I really don't like to put a name to my path and just let it unfold as I am guided. I feel a sense of freedom to continually be amazed by life and the mystical experiences it can bring. I feel the same way about my connection to the frame drum. It is providing me with new experiences I never could have imagined I would have, both on the physical and spiritual level.
Visit Karen's website at http://www.framedrumwisdom.com and her YouTube channel