Native American flutist Rona Yellow Robe uses her instrument to heal
Rona Yellow Robe first picked up the Native American flute in 2002, and has since used it throughout her life as a musician, teacher and healer.
Yellow Robe, who is a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, has also shared those talents with the Solstice Flute School and Festival since its inception in 2013, and said she is looking forward to co-facilitating two Create and Rejuvenate and one Ancient Wisdom workshops during this year’s festival that runs June 21-22 at the Homestead Resort.
The Create and Rejuvenate workshops, which will see Yellow Robe working with mindful-movement coach Elisabeth Lentz, are scheduled to be held from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Friday and from 9-11 a.m. on Saturday.
The session is a meditation and sound-healing workshop, according to Yellow Robe.
For the Ancient Wisdom workshops, the three-time Native American Music Award Flutist of the Year will partner with percussionist Kalani Das and storyteller Fabian Fontenelle for the Ancient Wisdom workshop, which will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday.
The session will feature the healing practices of music, storytelling and chanting, according to Yellow Robe.
“The chants will be in my Cree language and in English,” she said. “Chants are rhythm prayers, and when you do them, you find your whole body participates.”
The workshops aren’t much different than what Yellow Robe does in her everyday life as a healer who works with Multicare Hospice in Washington state.
“It’s interesting to me because the passion of playing the flute has taken me to work with hospice and (Alcoholics Anonymous),” she said. “And while I enjoy performing big concerts and festivals, it’s all of these little places that really sustain me.”
Yellow Robe, who plays concerts all over the world, remembers when she first tried playing the Native American flute 17 years ago.
“I had no expectations at that time,” she said. “I didn’t know we had festivals or flute schools. I just knew I wanted to play it.”
Yellow Robe’s clear mindset at that time provided the freedom she needed to express herself with the flute.
“I just began creating my own music and taught myself how to embellish the music,” she said. “I began teaching myself more and more, and although I did learn to read music, I usually play by ear.”
Yellow Robe draws from those early experiences when she teaches her class for novice flute players.
“I want my students to celebrate that beginning place,” she said. “I want them to play the instrument from a spiritual place within themselves. If they are able to do that, it makes it easier to want to go further with the instrument and embrace it.”
During her classes, Yellow Robe makes it a point to teach her students, who may not be Native American themselves, to forget their concerns about cultural appropriation.
“A lot of times students think since the flute comes from the Native American culture that they have to sound like the flute-playing indian on the hill, but that’s not an issue,” she said. “The reality is the flute they are holding is only asking for their individual experiences around music and what they want to create.”
Students learn to bridge the gaps between their and Native American cultures when they play what they feel, Yellow Robe said.
“I think the sharing of this instrument is a compliment to the culture it comes from,” she said. “And by playing it together, we form a unity that is shared musically and spiritually.”
For information about Rona Yellow Robe, visit ronayellowrobe.net.
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