By Keith Waits

Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Humanity began its history connected to the earth and connected to each other. As civilization was born and grew and we passed through the Industrial Revolution, the slow crawl to an existence overwhelmed by technology became inevitable, as did the resulting stress. Now that we have reached the Information Age, we find it necessary to put extraordinary effort into being healthy. We poison our food supply and sacrifice our well-being to remain competitive. We have become profoundly disconnected.

Cheyenne Mize and Nina Rodahaffer are experienced health and wellness professionals who want to help people reconnect to those fundamental roots. Mize, a well-regarded musician and recording artist, is also a Board Certified Music Therapist, while Rodahaffer, also a musician, is a Registered Nurse working at University of Louisville Hospital. The combination of disciplines found in their credentials points to their underlying belief that healing through the arts is a tangible reality that can be beneficial to a wide spectrum of people in ways that they may not readily understand.

To make such wellness programming more accessible, they have founded Strive, a non-profit whose mission statement begins:

“Our mission is to provide Arts & Wellness Education & Services to the Louisville community. We will make useful & meaningful programming available to all in an effort to foster affordable growth & learning for anyone who is striving for more in life.” 

Although Strive has an ambitious plan for the future, including the goal of establishing a center for gathering and learning in Downtown Louisville within the next few months, they are building interest from the ground up now through a series of activities including an ongoing weekly Tuesday evening drum circle that takes place at The Pointe on East Washington Street at 6:30pm.strive poster flat for web

It all leads up to Strivefest at La La Land on August 1. The event will run from 2:00pm -10:00pm and will feature performances by Appalatin, Small Time Napoleon, and Howell Dawdy, as well as a drum circle led by Mize and Rodahaffer, Instrument Making with Jim McGee and Nia With Maria, DJ Alli leading a dance party, a Kidsdance with Alexander Calls and food from New Wave Burrito.

The emphasis on building a core through drumming is by design: “Rhythm is the first thing to do,” explains Mize, “and it requires no expertise. It’s just about expression and connection.” The application of the technique to stress reduction and developing your core seems easy and relatable, but both Mize and Rodahaffer are trained Healthrhythms Facilitators through the REMO program developed by Neurologist Barry N. Bittman, M.D., which correlates group drumming to increases in the disease-fighting activity of circulating white blood cells — the ones that seek out and destroy cancer cells and virally infected cells. Such an approach to wellness is intended to work alongside conventional medical treatments, not replace them, yet the idea that such creative techniques have quantifiable biological impact will likely come as a surprise to many.

The larger vision for Strive is to build community through a program of music and art therapy, music lessons, lectures on health topics with a local relationship, and other art-making events. But while there is a public outreach, Mize and Rodahaffer have also been working to develop wellness programs for corporate offices and school classrooms. Such locations will be ideal situations for mindfulness and meditation initiatives intended to foster a sense of community through such innovative strategies as group drumming.

“These techniques form a family dynamic built on cohesiveness and empowerment,” explains Mize, “…and in the classroom, they build empathy in a child.” Placing this philosophy in educational environments with children is also a way to foster future interest and support for arts and wellness. “There are pockets of society where the interest in these ideas is high, and programming has been in place for some time: California and the Pacific Northwest in cities like Portland, Oregon, but Kentucky ranks very low nationally in wellness initiatives. Fortunately, Louisville tends to be more progressive in its thinking, and we are encouraged by the support we have received so far.”


Keith[box_light]Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being one of the hosts of PUBLIC on ARTxFM, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for[/box_light]