Cultural Arts Collaborative
Artist Profiles

Carolyn Brandy

Artist Bio

Carolyn is a percussionist, composer, performer, educator, and cultural worker. She started playing the conga drums in 1968, and is a pioneer in opening doors for women in the traditionally male world of percussion. Carolyn has played with many great artists in the Bay Area; was a long time member of the faculty at Jazz Camp West, & the California Jazz Conservatory; is an adjunct professor at CIIS, as well as having taught for many years in the Berkeley and Oakland school system, and San Quentin penitentiary. She was one of the founders of the all women jazz quintet, Alive!, and also the founder of Sistah Boom, Women Drummers International, and the percussion/vocal group Ojalá which was invited to, and performed at the Festival Del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba in 2014.

She is the founder of the non-profit organization, Women Drummers International, and is the producer of the Born To Drum Camp for women, which was created to inspire and empower women students, teachers and performers of hand percussion. The camps have been overwhelmingly successful, and have been produced from 2006-2019.

Carolyn has been a student of Cuban folkloric music for over 45 years. She is an expert in the folkloric drumming styles found throughout the island of Cuba. She led six successful cultural tours to the Island of Cuba to study Folkloric music from 1998-2011. She organized workshops in Havana, Matanzas, Jovellanos, Cienfuegos, Camaguey, Santiago De Cuba, Guantanamo, and Baracoa where her groups studied with masters of Afro-Cuban drumming and dance.

She has been a practitioner of the Yoruba-based Cuban religion, Regla de Ocha, also known as Santeria, since 1976. She was initiated as a priest of the religion in Havana, Cuba by Amelita Pedroso in 2000.

Carolyn also has a degree in music from Holy Names University in Oakland.

Artistic Highlights

Spring Greetings

Sistah Boom

Maestra Concert - Batá Solo

Fun With Students - Yuká

Links & Resources

Women Drummers International

The Mission of Women Drummers International is to empower women and girls in all aspects of their lives through the message of the drum, which represents not only a musical experience, but a cultural and healing experience as well. We believe that we are participating in a global movement of women drummers at this time on the planet. Women Drummers International is committed to creating a positive and empowering environment for women to teach, learn, and perform this incredible art form.

WDI has a variety of programs, the most important of which is the Born To Drum Women’s Drum Camp that happens every summer.  Born To Drum started in 2006.

We have also done many programs over the years including:

Drum Sundays, once a month drumming workshops with our Born To Drum faculty members; 

The Maestra Series, concert production of outstanding women musicians; 

Embracing our Heartbeat, an online drumming festival.

Take Drums to Heart, a community service program to take drums into the schools.