Remembering Randy Brody

Randy Brody — a multi-talented Westporter known best for his drumming circles, particularly for older people, and those with chronic diseases and special needs — died suddenly yesterday. Last September, I posted this story on him.

Work brought Randy Brody to Westport from Brooklyn 40 years ago. The job did not work out, but he stayed.

He did animation and special effects for films. He also wrote, and traveled the world. In his free time, he played drums. More than 25 years ago, he began leading drumming circles in South Norwalk.

Randy Brody

His circles grew to 25 people. No matter what kind of day he or anyone else had, at the end of a drum circle everyone felt good.

When Randy realized that technical writing was not for him, he turned his attention more seriously to drumming. He took classes in music therapy, studied improvisation and music teaching, and improved as a hand drummer.

As he delved into African, Middle Eastern and Brazilian percussion, he thought to himself: “This is why I’m on this planet.”

In 2001 — around the time he turned 50 — Randy left the corporate world.

His first drum circle gig was at The Marvin, a senior residence in Norwalk. He set up in the living room. Within a few minutes, everyone was having a great time. “Even people having trouble walking were drumming and dancing,” Randy recalls.

The director asked when Randy was coming back — and what he charged. He had never thought about either question.

Randy walked into senior centers like Westport’s, and assisted living facilities like the Greens at Cannondale. He had no appointments, but was welcomed in.

No one else was doing anything like it. Within a year or two, he was known as The Drum Guy. He was in demand from New Jersey to Massachusetts.

Randy Brody with adults…

Next, Randy organized drum circles for young adults with special needs.

“I experienced the healing power of drumming. It was therapeutic for them — and me,” he says. “I’d never had that sense of fulfillment in any job. Now I never have a bad day at work.”

Group drumming creates high energy and builds community, Randy says. It reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

It helps people with chronic diseases. One person told him, “For an hour, I forget I’m fighting cancer.”

He’s heard a nurse say of an Alzheimer’s patient, “He can’t do anything.” Five minutes later, the same person is drumming — and smiling.

Randy also does one-on-one sessions with autistic children. Sometimes the entire family joins in.

… and a younger drummer.

These days, his main work is with Abilis. Several times a months, he leads drum circles for the Greenwich-based special needs non-profit.

“It’s so rewarding, sitting in a circle playing hand drums,” he notes. “There’s such a connection between the group, the therapists, social workers and me. They’ve become my family.”

Some autistic youngsters can’t speak, or express themselves. But, Randy says, they relate to drums. And when they see him coming, they smile.

Every drum circle is different. But each time, Randy leaves with a full heart.

In the last few years, Randy has had his own medical issues. But he brings his drums to the hospital. Even after surgery, he plays.

It helps with pain management. The doctors think it’s helpful for recovery.

And, Randy smiles, “All the nurses start dancing.”

(Hat tip: Amy Ancel)

15 responses to “Remembering Randy Brody

  1. Robin Scarella

    Randy was a special special person. He really made a difference in people’s lives.
    Rest In Peace.

  2. Mark A Demmerle

    RIP Randy
    See you around the next bend

  3. Randy was a very special guy. I had the opportunity to work with him a few times and one day ran into him at The Greens at Cannondale ( an assisted living facility in Wilton) where he had been facilitating a drumming circle with memory care residents. (Including my mother-in-law). The light he brought to these residents was wonderful and the fact that he spent time there and was inspired by the residents’ enthusiastic response to drumming says a lot about his warmth and character.

  4. So sad and shocked by this news. Randy was such a kind and generous person. He had a beautiful soul and shared it with so many, far and wide. A very special man who will be missed by all who knew him.
    Godspeed, Randy.

  5. Rindy Higgins

    I’m so saddened to hear of Randy’s passing. He was such a treasure. I had him lead a drumming circle at the Aquarium decades ago as well as one at Sherwood Isl Beach about 8 years ago. I’d been in touch with him about finding an apartment last year or so. He was such a giver. God bless, Randy, and hopefully you’ll have all the angels dancing and drumming.

  6. Patricia McMahon

    Broke my heart hearing the news of Randy’s passing yesterday .
    He was a soulful, gentle spirit and a smile that lit up the room.
    I’ve been to several of his drummer circles and loved how he brought the community together through percussion.
    Lovely tribute Dan .
    RIP Mr.Brody!

    • Great story Dan…he sounds like a wonderful person who found his niche and fulfilled his life….God bless.

  7. Holly Wheeler

    RIP Randy. I loved your big drumming circles in the fields by Calf Pasture Beach in the 80s and 90s. A very special guy.

  8. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    Remembering Randy always at Winslow’s,1980’s..his grooving to our live jazz there,Friday nights…
    & many years later, after my sitting in on piano at 323 one great night, he came up to me:’You look So familiar!!’..:-)

  9. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    Remembering Randy at Winslow’s,years ago, his grooving to live jazz there, on a Friday night..
    Fast forward many years later,I’d then sat in on piano at 323; Randy then said to me:’You look So familiar!!’ 🙂

  10. Sarah Gross

    so sorry to here this. I met Randy about a year ago and when I heard about of his good work I let Dan know and he wrote the tribute here. He was active and enaged, loved life and lived a very rich purposeful one till the end. This sudden demise is shocking. If there is a memorial I would love to know about it

  11. Cathy Walsh

    Ed Trains’ Thursday night Jam at Bobby Q’s in Norwalk will feature a drum circle as a tribute to our good friend Randy. Jam starts at 7:30 and drum circle expected to start at 8:30. Bring your drums and percussion instruments. Randy had a rough couple of years and had finally found peace in his new apartment. He was an inspiration to all who knew him.

  12. It’s hard to imagine Westport without Randy Brody. Even during tough times and challenges, of which Randy had many, he was always positive, upbeat, and grateful for the kindness and support of his community. He will be missed.

  13. Randy Brody was a very talented , kind
    and generous person . Rest In Peace
    Westport will miss you 🙏

  14. Michael David Sackstein

    Randy was a special person, very kind hearted, and generous. He will be greatly missed and never forgotten! R.I.P. Randy!