Whitehorse Black Mountain

Kim Hughes:
Manifesting the Magic

Marlisa Mills


There is a theory that the name of your birth town influences your character development. If that’s a fact, Kimberly Hughes is definitely the exception to the rule.

For Kim Hughes, the road from Normal, Illinois to the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, was long and winding…and paved with dreams.

“My first dream was to be a veterinarian,” she smiles. “And to have a horse. I was so insistent about the horse – begging and pleading and in general, bugging the daylights out of my father – that when I was seven, he bought me a little orange pony.”

Manifestation. Elementary-style.

“We lived right outside of town on about an acre of land, and I rode that pony – his name was Corky —across our pasture as if I were conquering the Wild West. While everyone else was leading a ‘normal’ mid-western life, I was getting on Corky and riding out to see the sunrise.”

It was just the beginning of a magical love affair with horses that would guide Kim’s life forever.

“I knew I was different from my early years,” Kim says. One of two daughters of a musical family, Kim laughed when she recalled that her sister had even told her that she was adopted… or an alien.  “I used to cry and ask my mom if I really had been adopted,” she laughs.  “They said no, but I’m still not so sure about that.”

Corky and Kim remained steadfast friends until Kim was fourteen years old and the pony began to founder. “By that time, I had moved on to other interests.  I was becoming interested in boys. But I never lost my love for horses.”

“When I was in high school, I discovered that I could sing,” Kim says. “My parents both sang and when I was very young, I thought that there was some kind of magic to reading the notes.  I thought I would never know the secret.”  She chuckled.  “I discovered you could learn where the music went up and down… and I found that I had a voice.”

Kim sang in high school and then moved on to Illinois State University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in music.  “I knew I loved music greatly, but there were other things I was interested in.  I was a person who liked to help other people and I wondered what else, aside from singing, I was good at it.  One particular evening, as I wondered what else I could do well, I looked down at the books on my coffee table. I saw The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud, and Memories, Dreams, and Reflections  by Carl Jung.

Hmm… maybe psychology?”

Graduate school.


“Music was wonderful, but I realized early on that it was a singular focus.  I wanted to broaden my scope and so I went to graduate school to become a counselor.”

A Master’s degree in counseling under her belt, Kim realized it was time to leave her home turf.  She accepted a position in the student counseling center at the University of Maine in Farmington where she spent three years.  Following her time there, she moved to an academic counseling position at Burlington County College in Pemberton, New Jersey.

She was just a hop, skip, and jump away from New York City, where her life would revolve for the next two decades.  There, music and counseling became her dual path.

“I worked on Staten Island as a mental health counselor, then got (manifested) funding through St. Vincent’s Hospital and the NY State Division of Drug & Alcohol Abuse to found and sell Employee Assistance programs to agencies and businesses in Staten Island.  After that I was hired as a counselor for NYC’s Department of Finance EAP for five years, and was then laid off because the program was restructured. Then she went into private practice in 1995, a vocation that continues to this day.

“There was also manifestation when I moved to Maine and got the counseling job. And when I determined that I needed to explore singing in New York City four years later, amazingly I transformed from a choir alto into a Madame Butterfly soprano.  Manifestation occurred again (as always, with the help of the higher forces) when I opened my private practice in 1995 in New York after being laid off from my job.”

During these same years, Kim found a vocal coach and began singing again in earnest.  And the child of Illinois – who thought following the notes was magic – became a professional opera singer.

“I had always thought I was a contralto,” Kim laughs. But my coach heard the soprano in me.  One day during a lesson, I hit a clear, high B-flat.  REALLY hit it. I cried as I came down the elevator from that lesson, and thought, ‘NOW I’m a SINGER!”

And a singer she was. Over the next years, Kim would sing all over the Big Apple.  Her knowledge of and love for opera grew as she discovered her voice, and her passion for music grew.  She sang with the Regina Opera Company in Brooklyn.  Touted as Brooklyn’s “best small opera company,” Kim performed twelve lead roles.  She also performed in 1995 with Illinois State Symphony, returning to Normal to sing “back home” and with other choral societies, opera companies, and sacred institutions.

At the same time, Kim was deepening her interest in the spiritual side of the helping professions.  Always enthused about a multi-faceted approach to therapy, Kim studied sound healing, life coaching, shamanic practice, primal scream, and gestalt therapies – and combined the alternative and traditional into her private practice model.

And then the manifestation took a turn.

“I loved music,” Kim says.  “I was living the life I thought I had always wanted.  But more and more I realized that I didn’t have the sole focus that it took to be a really good, long-term professional opera star.  I was interested in much more – in so many areas of life, some of which I didn’t yet even know were going to become part of my life. I was rather tired of the company I was singing with, and as much as I loved the stage and the people I sang with, I knew there was more.”

And more there was.

Enter Bob Hinkle, a musician and producer who had managed some of the great music acts of the times.

“In 2001 I determined that I was ready for a partner/husband, and within six months found my Bob, after hiring him to produce my first CD “True Voice”.

Bob and Kim became great friends.

And then.  September 11, 2001.  Manhattan.
On the morning of 9/11, Bob and Kim were headed into the city.  They noticed the commotion, and they stood at the feet of the Twin Towers, a ringside view of the event that would change history.

“We felt helpless, but we went to   the hospital to offer blood.  It was all we knew to do.  But there were so many people with the same ideas that we were turned away. And THAT was a wonderful thing in New York – to see all those people wanting to help!”

And as the world became a sadder, more fearful place, Kim and Bob realized they were in love.

“We didn’t know we were in love on that morning.  But as we watched the horror of the collapse of the Twin Towers and the amazing spirit of the people, I knew.  We knew.”

Manifestation in the face of tragedy.

“We married in 2003 and co-created the Healing Rain Space in NYC, a noncommercial healing and music venue.  But we just weren’t using the city any longer.  Even though we loved our time there and the friends we had made, it was time to go.”

The mountains of The South called.

“We drove—to a land that was totally unfamiliar to me.  Asheville is Bob’s home, so he was returning to the land he loved.  I was to find out that I was a transplanted Yankee.”

But the Yankee woman manifested a perfect cabin, high on the mountain in East Buncombe County.

She smiles.

“As much as I loved the mountains, I looked around and wondered if I really would ever belong – to this strange land and these people who repeatedly reminded me that, coming from New York City, this way of life had to be a big change.  And it was.”

“As I meditated one day, I got a vision of a white horse standing on alert in front of black mountains, with lightning over his right shoulder. . . and I saw whitehorseblackmountain.com all typed out in my head, too!  I didn’t know what that was for, but I bought the domain name because the experience was so strong and I trusted it.  I told Bob, and right around the same time, he had a strong intuition that we should have a presence in the town, and not just be up in our mountain cabin.”

“A month or so later I was still feeling a little out-of-place, and Bob and I went to meet with Bob McMurray, the head of the Black Mountain Chamber of Commerce, to introduce ourselves and say hi.  At the end of our little meeting he said. ‘I want to show you something,’ so we headed across town and he let us into the old Chevrolet dealership building owned by his father, right in the heart of town.  He didn’t tell us why, he just let us in the door.  We walked in and picked our way through the stored antiques and junk.  We saw the curved wooden ceiling and clapped and sang a few notes to test the acoustics – they were WONDERFUL!”

“We both started to envision the place as a music venue – there could be a stage there, a bar there, etc.  As we were stepping along a narrow path between piles of junk, Bob was behind me, and I looked back at him and said ‘Honey, is THIS White Horse Black Mountain?’  And when we turned around and looked forward again, up on the wall was a poster with five white horses.  We got chills—the variety you get when you know you’re supposed to pay attention and make something happen .”

And The White Horse was manifested into being.

“Just around this time I was speaking to a fellow healer friend of mine who mentioned a Peruvian-American healer and ethno-psychologist named Oscar Miro-Quesada,” Kim says, “who had founded a nonprofit called The Heart of the Healer Foundation or THOTH.   I’d had previous shamanic training, so this was intriguing and seemed as if it might help me connect with this land.  So we went to a weekend-long ceremony with Don Oscar in Cherokee, NC.  It was a transformative experience, and Bob and I put the symbol of White Horse onto the ceremonial altar for the whole three days.  And when we came back, we did a Peruvian ceremony in the soon-to-be White Horse building, to consecrate the space and manifest investors.  I knew I’d get more involved with The Heart of the Healer Foundation someday, but right then we had to give birth to a White Horse!”

“So, with the help of the higher forces, we manifested the investors, renovated the building, structured the business legally and financially, and opened our doors in November of 2008. It was right after the market crash in October 2008.  We’ve now hosted two-and-a-half years of fun, kickass, and transcendent musical/community experiences, and also had some extremely challenging financial times – like so many others.”

“Our doors are still open, yet we needed more financial sustenance to make it through.  In October of 2010 we realized that we needed to increase our ability to support ourselves and White Horse, and I began looking to manifest a job.  Very fortuitously, THOTH was seeking an operations manager, and I was honored to be accepted for that position in November.”

“Together with THOTH and all the higher forces involved, what is now manifesting is a trip to Peru this summer, an apprenticeship in the cross-cultural shamanic Pachakuti Mesa tradition, and more members and donors for THOTH.”

Recently, a White Horse frequenter and friend introduced Kim to her pony Scooter (who looks remarkably like Corky!)

“So now I’m in the mountains, back on a little orange horse! Full circle.”

And what’s next?

She twinkles.

“You just never know.”

In the year that I have been writing profiles for WNC Woman, I have met some astonishing women.  Kim Hughes is no exception.  Busy schedules resulted in stretching the interviews over a long period of time.  And by the time we were finished, I knew I had made a friend for life.  I like to think maybe I manifested it.


The photos of Kim were taken by Marlisa Mills with Zorro the magical white horse at eponaridge.com.  Thanks to Barbara Alexander for allowing us to take these pictures.

Marlisa Mills is a writer and clinical counselor living in Black Mountain

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker