Carolyn Brandy is a percussionist, composer, performer, and educator, and Cultural Worker. She started playing the Conga Drums in 1968, and has been a pioneer in opening doors for women in the male-dominated world of percussion. She has worked in the Bay Area for many years with many groups such as RhythMix, Jazz Camp West, The Jazzschool, Oakland Jazz Choir, Oakland Youth Choir, Redwood Cultural Work, Berkeley and Oakland Public Schools, Skin Talk, !Ojalá! and many other groups and artists. She is also an Adjunct professor at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) and Sophia University.
Carolyn was the founder of Sistah Boom, a popular community based marching band that has been active since 1981. She was a founding member of the all women jazz quintet Alive! which toured nationally for ten years, and produced three albums, which have been released on a compilation CD, Always Alive! Carolyn released a self-produced CD of her own compositions in 1995, entitled Skin Talk.
Carolyn created Women Drummers International in 1998, which became a non-profit organzation [501(c)3] in 2009. The signature event of WDI is BORN TO DRUM, a women's drum camp which was created to inspire and empower women students, teachers and performers of hand percussion. The camps have been very successful, and have been produced every summer since 2006.
Carolyn has been a drummer and student of Cuban folkloric music for over 40 years. She has been a practitioner of the Yoruba-based Cuban religion, Regla de Ocha, also known as Santeria, since 1977. She was initiated as a priest of the religion in Havana, Cuba by Amelita Pedroso in 2000.
She has led six tours to the Island of Cuba to study Folkloric music and dance. She has organized workshops in Havana, Matanzas, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santiago De Cuba, Guantanamo, and Baracoa where the groups have studied with masters of Afro-Cuban Folkloric music.
Carolyn has a degree in music from Holy Names University in Oakland.
This short video was created for PSAs. It shows a lot in 30 seconds! Footage is from drum camps and the Drum Maestra concerts. Carolyn Brandy created the video with footage shot by Annette Acosta and Estee Blancher.
Carolyn Brandy and Sonya Tafoya visited CBS' San Francisco studio for an interview with Tracy Humphrey on her Bay Sunday show. Here is the video of this interview.