Meet The Fellows...

Stories of Jubilation: Carolyn Brandy
San Leandro, CA
Fellowship: 2014/2013

"Music is joyful medicine," says expert Afro-Cuban drummer Carolyn Brandy. "It can bring wholeness to the individual and wellness to a community. Each and every human being has music inside. I believe that a good teacher can unlock the music within, can encourage confidence and self pride, and can lift up a child of any age with the joy of music making."

Carolyn started playing congas after coming across some drummers in Pike Place Market in Seattle. A classical violinist of 15 years, once she started drumming, she never looked back. "Drumming is a physical, intellectual, and spiritual endeavor," she says. "It has the power to bring us into the present moment."

A teaching artist since 1980, Carolyn is passionate about building community. "It's what we need for our own healing, and the healing of the planet. It's a blessing wherever we can come together and create that community. Drums are a cultural thing, a people thing."

She is the founder of the nonprofit Women Drummers International, and co-produces Born To Drum Camps, which feature an international faculty. She also founded Sistah Boom, a popular community-based marching band that has been active since 1981.

But, "one of the biggest and best parts of my musical life has been to teach and make music with children," says Carolyn. A recipient of several California Arts Council grants, Carolyn taught drumming in the Berkeley/Oakland school districts in a program called Take Drums to Heart. The children's ensemble was a huge success in the community, and they performed regularly, including once for Winnie Mandela.

Carolyn leads cultural drum and dance tours to Cuba that travel the length of the island. Because of her proficiency with Afro-Cuban folkloric music, she became one of the first North American women allowed to study the batŠ, an Afro-Cuban ritual drum used exclusively by men for hundreds of years.

"Drums are powerful medicine," she says. "Each drummer in the ensemble has a place. Each individual part is important to the whole. Without every personís part the whole changes. And wholeness is wellness. I have learned that most humans need, at every age, connection to others in positive ways. What better way than drumming and music making!"


Maestras of Women Drummers International

Skin Talk
Always Alive! a compilation from the jazz quintet she co-founded called, Alive!

Step by Step Conga Instruction

Intermediate Series

Cuba. "The level of musicianship in Cuba... art is really exalted there, more people participate than donít. They sing, they dance, they paint Ė the society is very giving toward art. For example, one of their billboards says, 'Art will save our identity!' They are very conscious, quite evolved artistically and musically, and so charismatic."

Carolyn is Reading:
"I'm not reading much right now, except Internet stuff, but Iím writing music, a rumba, a guaguanco. I just wrote a decima, which is a 10-line poem, called 'In My Garden Filled with Flowers.' The poem started on a plane back from Cuba. In some Native American traditions, they catch songs -- like I caught this decima."

Carolyn is Listening to:
Cuban folkloric music, rumba music, Lisa Fischer

Carolyn is Watching:
20 Feet from Stardom, a documentary filled with musicians "working in the trenches. The level of musicianship is extraordinary."

(interviewed 2014)

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