By Lisa Summer & Carolyn Kenny
Welcome to the first Special Issue of Voices. This is a commemorative issue, dedicated to the life and work of Helen Bonny, who passed away on Tuesday, May 25, 2010. You will find many peer reviewed articles and resources pertaining to Helen Bonny, her life, her music, and The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music within these web pages. We (Lisa and I) begin with some personal memories about Helen Bonny to give you our impressions about Helen’s depth of character, her dedication to music, and her visionary nature. Then you can read many articles in this issue – articles in all categories including perspectives on practice, reports, examples of research, essays, stories, a Refshare document with links to research materials on GIM, archival texts, and a keynote speech by Helen that appears here in Voices for the first time as a written text.
In addition, we are happy to offer a Country of the Month text that celebrates the 25th anniversary of the World Federation of Music Therapy.
In the Spring of 1988 I (Carolyn Kenny) was working at the University of Québec in Montréal as a Visiting Professor. One day, while sitting in my office grading papers, I received a call from Helen Bonny. She was very excited. She told me that the funding for our new institute had come through. So I completed my work in Canada and made the preparations to move to Kansas to work with Helen to create "The Bonny Foundation: An Institute for Music-centered Therapies" along with Barbara Hesser, who was able to spend four months with us in Kansas dialoguing about what it all meant!! These were very special times.
For me, getting to know Helen as a person was just as important as working to establish our institute. One day, she invited Barbara and I to attend a very special concert at Bethel College in Newton, Kansas. Bethel College is the oldest Mennonite college in the United States. And the Mennonite Men's Choir was offering a special concert. We were especially moved by one song -- "Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let It Begin with Me". We heard 500 men -- three generations -- singing this song in perfect unison. We were stunned at the beauty. Afterwards, we tried to pull ourselves together through our tears. So we talked about the fact that many of these men had been conscientious objectors and had made very personal sacrifices for their beliefs about peace. We also talked about the "beauty". Helen had such a deep appreciation for the unique beauty that music could offer -- the depth, the transformational opportunities.
In previous years, she had served as the External Examiner for my doctoral thesis. Her comments were all about how "the Field of Play" emphasized our nature as aesthetic beings and how she believed this articulation was a "watershed" in Music Therapy theory. I miss her so for her belief in the coherence between our aesthetic being, spirit, and the music.
I (Lisa Summer) was 22 years old when I met Helen Bonny. In our first discussion she spoke to me about her personal relationship with music. Although she spoke about her love of specific composers and specific pieces of music; mainly, she shared her passion about the beauty of classical music – that there was nothing else that could compare to it. Helen was first music therapist I knew who was interested in the effect of aesthetics on her clients, and she was the first music therapist to speak to me about her own love of music. I felt her to be fiercely connected to classical music; and this made a strong impact upon me because at that time I had lost much of my personal relationship with music. Somehow in the process of becoming a music therapist, music had become just a tool, a vehicle for helping others. I could feel that music was the center of Helen’s existence and this inspired me to study GIM with her. Little did I know that our relationship would last for 34 years. Our mutual love of music remained at the center of our personal and professional connection . As her student in the 1970’s, she supported me to reclaim the depth of my personal passion for music. Later, in the 1980’s and 90’s I became the Coordinator of her GIM Program at the Bonny Foundation. We taught a music-centered approach to music therapy. We sang, danced, improvised, and played familiar songs with the trainees at every seminar throughout all of those years.
I remember so vividly the joyful twinkle in Helen’s eyes when she referred to GIM with the expression: “We’ve got the tiger by the tail!” The tiger was classical music, and she used this phrase often to indicate that her GIM procedures brought immediate and long lasting psychological and spiritual transformation, unlike other verbal psychotherapies. Helen’s vision was that music could become a primary – not an adjunctive – therapy; and she felt that the GIM method could bring music therapy into the forefront of health initiatives in the US and abroad.
But I can attest to the fact that Helen Bonny was no romantic visionary. Her visionary nature was balanced by a great respect for research and clinical competence and a detail-oriented practicality. She worked tirelessly, collaborating with me on many of the details of the Bonny Foundation GIM training: clinical competencies, and ideas for research and training. She was unreservedly devoted to GIM and its clinical adaptations.
We both remember the 1998 celebration of Helen’s retirement from the Bonny Foundation. At that time we dialogued with Fran Goldberg, and wondered about the future of GIM. In fact, only one year later in 1999 GIM was recognized by the profession as one of five worldwide models of music therapy (World Congress of Music Therapy; Washington, D.C.). Then, in 2002 the collection of her monographs, articles, and lectures was published (Music and Consciousness: The Evolution of Guided Imagery and Music, Ed. L. Summer, Gilsum, NH, Barcelona Publishers). And in 2010, before her death she was recognized as an eminent American musician: she became a dictionary entry in the New Grove Dictionary for American Music (2nd edition; NY, NY: Oxford Press).
It is with the greatest respect and admiration that we celebrate Helen Bonny’s life and accomplishments with this Helen Bonny Special Commemorative Issue of Voices. We would like to thank the many contributors around the world for their original contributions to this issue. Our work on this very special issue served to remind us of the great web of influence that Helen Bonny created around the world. She will be missed.
I (Carolyn) would also like to offer a very special thanks to Dr. Lisa Summer, who worked tirelessly to create this issue. All articles were invitational. And Lisa stretched her wings to embrace the world of GIM with grace, commitment, and professionalism. Through Lisa and many others, Helen Bonny has left a rather elegant legacy.
We invite you to read and enjoy and to continue the discussions about Helen Bonny and her work in the Discussion section of Voices. There are many memories to share and many ideas to express in dialogue. These online conversations can happen right here in Voices for extreme open access to hundreds of people around the world. Her work continues to grow.