Speaker: Christine Stevens

Drumming Up Spirit in Nature and Communities

“It is not what music does,” writes Christine Stevens, “it is what music undoes.”

In July 2022, as a crimson supermoon lit up the sky in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, Christine Stevens sat afloat in a kayak, beholding the still, alpine waters of Jenny Lake and attuning to the wisdom offered by the natural world. When the time was ripe, she reached into her backpack, took out the wooden flute that usually accompanies her, and played a mesmerizing ode to the moon. A certified naturalist, poet, and music therapist who has worked globally with survivors of trauma, war, and disasters, Christine was now preparing for her annual vision quest—alone for four days, fasting, and silent.

Deeply connected with music and nature since a young age, Christine grew up in an “outdoorsy family,” adored her grandfather’s tree farm, and learned to play the piano and saxophone. Up until high school, however, she felt alone whenever she performed music. Then one day, she volunteered in a classroom of autistic children. They joined her in playing music together. And it was there that she discovered her life calling, going on to receive two master's degrees—one in music therapy, the other in social work. 

Although her current work is comprised in large part by drumming (Upbeat Drum Circles), it wasn’t easy at first. “I thought I had no sense of rhythm at all,” Christine reflects. “I almost failed the percussion class in college.” But she stumbled into a drum circle while attending a music conference and immediately felt transformed by the energy. She learned to play congas and improvise freely. Inspired by the ease of handling drums, their spiritual depth, and historical significance, Christine became a “musical ambassador of peace,” bringing their healing potential to communities touched by significant trauma: Columbine High School, Ground Zero after 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Most recently, she worked with Iraqi refugees and created the first drum circle training program in northern Iraq.

As a member of an integrative research team, she has published multiple studies on the scientific benefits of group drumming, including research that showed an increase in immunity and T-cells in participants of drum circles. Her book, Music Medicine: The Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself With Sound, goes deeper into music as a healing modality and teaches a paradigm of music that integrates the four directions and four elements with the four dimensions of the human being. 

When it comes to spiritual background and beliefs, Christine is a self-described “smogasbordian.” She has been influenced by The Soul Saving Station for Every Nation, the Quakers, the Sufi lineage of Hazrat Inayat Khan, and the Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles—the latter in which her co-leading of the Drum Ministry has “really helped [her] consciousness of positive thought and affirmative prayer.” In her forties, she was adopted into the Lakota people after a sweat lodge purification ceremony and elaborate offerings of song, feast, and gifts.

In addition to grassroots communities, Christine has also worked with the Department of Defense and many Fortune 500 companies including DuPont, Disney, and Verizon. For the general public, she offers multiple YouTube videos teaching simple rhythms with drummers from around the world. 

Her other books include The Nature Sutras, The Healing Drum Kit, and The Art and Heart of Drum Circles. She is a contributing writer for magazines like US News and World Report, Fitness, and The Christian Science Monitor

Ultimately, she feels her mission is to embody, with or without instruments, the music that moves through her and to support others in realizing that they, too, are music.

Please join Mina Lee in conversation with this musician and poet of Earth’s wild beauty, and learn with us some ways to awaken through rhythmic and playful expression.  

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