When Randy Brody was 14 years old, he heard drumming underneath the boardwalk at Coney Island. Curious, he followed the music and stumbled upon a group of men playing hand drums, surrounded by women dancing to the beat. And while they did not speak English, they welcomed him and invited him to join and play a conga drum.
"Literally that day I gave up my drum set," said Brody who had been playing since he was 10. He began playing hand drums and has ever since.
Today, Brody, who many know as "the drum guy," is spreading a message of healing and strength through rhythmic drumming. As the facilitator of a drum circle he has seen firsthand how his work can help reduce stress and worry in those that play with him. "People would come in and look a little down, but once the drumming started, everyone forgot their problems and perked up," he said.
Brody, who plays African djembe and mbira, Latin congas, Middle Eastern doumbek, Swiss hang drum and other ethnic percussion instruments, left the corporate world and a job as a medical technical writer for the Bayer Corp. "I quit a corporate job because I knew this was my calling," he said. "This is probably the first work I've ever done that I truly lovethis is the path I've chosen."
Brody holds drum circles at the Norfield Grange in town every month. He splits his time between teaching children, seniors and special needs individuals. His two companies, Sound Directions (for corporate events, recreational therapy, wellness programs, stress management, cancer center programs, Alzheimer's patient activities and staff teambuilding) and Drum and Dance (for schools, camps, birthday parties, YMCAs and special education programs) keep him busy year round.
He regularly visits senior centers to share his passion for rhythm and healing. "They just love it when we show up," said Brody, who added that you don't need to know anything about drumming to be able to benefit from the drum circles or the workshops. Once the drums begin, participants cannot help but be moved by the uplifting and infectious rhythms. "People who have trouble walking often start dancing at a drum circle," he said, sharing a story about a 106-year-old woman in Greenwich who could not get up and move around, but shook a maraca from where she sat.
Sue Herbst, the Evergreen Program Coordinator at Greens Cannondale Assisted Living in Wilton, said Brody engages residents who do not normally want to get involved in other programs. "It brings something out in them--you can see it on their faces," she said. The facility has brought Brody back for several years because his program is so popular and puts smiles on the residents' faces.
In the spirit of giving to the community, Brody has hosted many drum circle fundraisers. One of his circles raised between $4,000 and $5,000 for tsunami relief in an hour and a half. He hopes to host another to raise money to help save the wildlife affected by the oil spill in the gulf.
"That's why I do what I do," he said.
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