NSN 2012 Conference Closing Keynote – Bill Harley

The 2012 National Storytelling Conference was “A Conference to Remember.”  Like the Akan “Sankofa” mythical bird which looks back while moving forward, we remember the wisdom of the past so we can reach our future potential.

Forty years on in the storytelling renaissance, we are at the end of something, which means we’re at the beginning of something else.  What is our place in the arts world, in the world of education, and in our culture?  What steps can we take individually and as a community to nurture our work?  Two time Grammy award winning artist and NSN Circle of Excellence recipient, Bill Harley, offered his thoughts about how we got here and where we might go, looking at storytelling as a performance art, a teaching tool, and builder of community, finishing with some charges for us to take home.

Where Do We Go From Here? The state of storytelling – my perspective
by Bill Harley

Click to Listen – (56 minutes)



2 thoughts on “NSN 2012 Conference Closing Keynote – Bill Harley”

  1. My initial response after a first listening:

    Yes to a school of storytelling! The National Youth Storytelling Showcase has begun this work and should be expanded and promoted, possibly through TED youth. A month long summer camp for storytellers of all ages, with an emphasis on the youth. Take what we have and expand it.

    “Intimacy in a disconnected world.”
    When I first heard of NAPPS (National Association for the Perpetuation and Preservation of Storytelling), how it was the old name before NSN I felt a deep sadness because it seemed to me that art as a commodity, had won an important debate, versus art as a human right and legacy. The mistake seems to me that storytelling as a way to make a living took precedence over storytelling as an ancient birthright of humanity that needs and deserves preservation.

    As part of the dialogue regarding excellence we must also include knowledge of the ancient stories form our ancestors. The work of Joseph Campbell and more currently Clarissa Pinkola Estes is the intellectual depth that I have found absent at the few storytelling events such as conferences that I have attended. While I agree with the analysis of the ‘accredited academy,’ I am concerned about the need for intellectual depth. The school should go beyond the craft of storytelling. If NAPPS had won the debate maybe our allies would’ve included anthropologists, folklorists, Jungians, historians, psychologists (narrative, evolutionary and cognitive), biologists and neuroscientists. The historical significance of storytelling illustrates how deeply human it is and how fundamental it is to our human development. As new modes of communication pervade our lives we must recognize and demand recognition for the ancient art storytelling, as well as the ancient stories that come from a time before writing. Ontology recapitulates Philology, or is it Philology recapitulates Ontology?

    I have been a ‘storytelling teacher’ at a public school for 6 years. I may not be a “great” storyteller, but I am a storyteller that tells folk tales to the same 500 children every week for the past 5 ½ years. Storytelling has become culturally relevant because it has been elevated to a class, just like dance, drama and art. The trance state that every student gets to experience once a week has a profound impact on there developing imaginations. The work that occurs during this sitting and listening to a live person spin a yarn is a human birthright that needs to be preserved.

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