Our Kind and Gentle Giant, Brook Boddie

By Tammy Willcox

I met Brook Boddie when Mary Radspinner and I produced the Neosho River Harp Festival in my hometown of Miami, Oklahoma. Brook had registered and had almost arrived in Miami when he got a phone call that his mother, who was diagnosed with ALS, was failing. He turned around and drove back to Shreveport to be with her until she passed. The following year (2005) he was able to come to the festival and that's when we became friends. We saw each other at several different festivals and conferences and had many phone conversations and emails about HARPS! We talked about the harps we had, the harps we were selling, the harps we were buying, and the harps that we wanted. If you knew Brook, you know what I'm talking about! Brook loved wheelin' and dealin' in harps! We talked about upcoming harp events, recently found music arrangements, and our favorite workshop presenters. But most of all, Brook loved connecting with friends and would do anything to make his friends feel special. One example...In early 2011 I was still reeling from the death of my parents and having to sell the family farm which left me gutted and exhausted. Brook called and said “Hey! Let's go to the Harp Journeys conference! (produced by Kimberly DeRosa, and at that time it was held in Houston.) If you will fly into Houston, I will pick you up at the airport, bring you a harp and be your chauffeur for the entire weekend!” Well, who could beat a deal like that? So that's what we did and we had the best time! Robbin Gordon-Cartier was there and, for her concert, she surprised Brook by performing “Upon the Willows”, the composition that he had written in memory of his mother, Barbara Fay White. I know Brook was very touched when Robbin performed his song. On a funny note, I'll never forget that one night Brook and I went to a local steakhouse for dinner and the restaurant was PACKED! We learned later that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was in full swing. Our cute little waitress says “Are you in town for the rodeo?” And without missing a 32nd beat, Brook says “Yeah, she's a barrel racer and I'm a bull rider.” Now if you know me, you know I'm not...let's say 'tiny'. And although I actually used to be a barrel racer, those entry fees have long been paid. And bull riders? Well, they are usually slim and wiry guys...not like our beloved Brook! So, the waitress never flinched and took our drink orders and left while Brook and I were cracking up! Oh, what a sly wit he had! L to R below: Frank Voltz, Tammy Willcox, Brook Boddie.

Here are some quotes from others in the harp community who knew him.

I met Brook Boddie at a harp conference years ago and although he was a very tall and large man, he was a kind and gentle giant. He was so humble and modest about himself and his talent, but bold and outspoken about everything (especially models of harps) and everybody else in the harp world. In 2017, I was invited to be a performer and clinician at the Harp in Worship conference at Centennial Covenant Church in Littleton, Colorado. When I fly (rather than drive) to a conference, I always have to "mooch a harp" like Louise Trotter used to say, so one of the guest artists offered to let me use her Lyon & Healy Model 23 for my concert set. Unfortunately, the harp didn't like me and I had to find another harp (the same string broke three times in rehearsal - and the third time was 30 minutes before my concert set). I looked around the group of ensemble harps and there it was - a Lyon & Healy Model 30 - my new best friend. Well, Brook Boddie had been playing the Model 30 in ensemble rehearsal; so in a panic, I asked him if I could play his harp for my concert set. Well, you would have thought I had given him a Christmas present. He said, "I can't wait to hear you play my harp!" As I played the concert, I smiled at Brook in appreciation, winked (yes, I winked at him), and thanked him for letting me play his harp. We had such a great time at Harp in Worship and shared lots of "church stories." What a gracious and generous man he was. When I heard that he had passed, I dug out my autographed copy of his original composition, "Upon the Willows," and played it. I think it's his best work, but when I stared at his name on the cover, I was saddened to think that I'll never see him again. The harp world has lost a treasure - and lost too soon.
- Frank Voltz

I think apart from being in constant awe of his talent, we all miss laughing with him most of all. What a beautiful soul he had.”
- Laura Brandenburg

When sisters, Christy-Lyn Marais and Megan Marais, from South Africa, came to the United States, Brook proved to be the ever hospitable host. He invited them to stay with him in his home. They had a wonderful time.

Brook connected with people on a deep level because he genuinely valued each person he came across. He was selfless and loving in a way that comes from allowing the Lord to change us and listening closely to the Holy Spirit day by day. I learned so much from Brook’s example and I’m thankful to have known him.”
Christy-Lyn Marais, from Learning the Harp

My favorite line I've heard recently about Brook was spoken by Rhett Barnwell in his tribute video. I wrote it down because I thought it was so true and so beautiful: "He let the Holy Spirit use him as a conduit for music which I believe came straight from the throne of God". That's Brook right there!
- Megan Marais

Below is Christy-Lyn's hand over Brook's followed by Christy-Lyn and Brook at his home.
Brook was otherworldly in many ways - highly spiritual. Thoughtful, humble, giving. Full of compliments for other people. I remember when he called and said he couldn't make it to our first Neosho River Harp Festival because his mother had died. It was October 15, the same day my mother passed away many years before. I always thought that was special. He was very respectful and let others take the lead, and he was happy with that. He started visiting Melody's many years ago. He would try out all the harps and play these really beautiful passages. I would ask him what he was playing and he'd shrug and say something like, "oh I don't know, I'm just making it up."I told him I wanted to see that in print so I could play it!” I'm so glad he finally put a few things down on paper.”

- Mary Radspinner

It was always a treat to open my email and see a message from Brook. They would always start with "Hey there, Mr. B!" Along with Rhett Barnwell, we would always refer to each other, as “Mr. B”, since all of our last names start with the letter B. Brook's hobby of acquiring new harps was often the subject of our discussions, and as soon as we heard that a new harp was on the way to Shreveport, the first thing we'd ask would be "How much are you selling it for?" or "Have you placed the ad yet?" Brook always had such joy in meeting each new harp that came along, and getting to know its unique character. Somehow, he always made each one sound amazing! Brook was also a source of advice, support, and encouragement. I've never met anyone whose faith was so very evident in everything he said or did. Brook is the epitome of the kind of person I aspire to be, and my hope is that I can live up to his example.”
- Andy Barber

I first met Brook at the 2011 Liturgical Harp Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. Brook was such a gentle and kind spirit. And, oh, so humble. He had a certain glow--as if you could almost see an angelic aura. This is so rare. A kind and humble and gifted man with a big heart. He ordered a book of my arrangements and paid me extra via PayPal because he thought that I wasn't charging enough for the work of posting the book. It is a little thing, but captures the way Brook lived. He genuinely cared about people. I always felt respected and valued by Brook even if it was in a short email or an extra tip. Brook sprinkled the world with kindness and we can all learn from his example.

Brook was taken from us far too soon. I'm very thankful for the beauty he shared in his music and this will continue to live on and inspire us. May his memory be a blessing, always.”
- Sunita Staneslow

Christy-Lyn's tribute to Brook.

Anne Crosby Gaudet has composed a beautiful song in memory of Brook. It is titled “The Sparrow.” You can find it at this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yek0Z-zZptw .

Rhett Barnwell and Brook were great friends. Rhett published some of Brook's music through his publishing company Seraphim Music. Rhett performed “Upon the Willows” for Brook's memorial service. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8glZbk3Rh1k Rhett hopes to publish some of Brook's compositions that were unpublished when he passed. So keep and eye out for those forthcoming.

This is a post from Brook's FB page dated June 6. It gives you an idea of his true nature. The music is completely improvised.

The one thought I personally took away from Brook's memorial service was shared by Dr. Tom Harrison, Executive Pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church, Shreveport, Louisiana. He said “He may not agree with you, but he would STILL LOVE YOU!” Wow. If only every person on our planet would love like this.

When I think of Brook, I'm reminded of something recording artist Russ Taff said when he was honored at the 2012 GMA Dove awards. He said “Be KIND to one another! LOVE one another! CARE for one another!” Brook did just that.

Multi-instrumentalist and Oklahoma Cowgirl Tammy Willcox began her study of music at an early age, later specializing in Bluegrass and Celtic music. She has an active solo and ensemble performing career, teaches harp, guitar and piano in her home studio and has produced a number of music festivals. She plays with Harpe Diem, an ensemble with Brenda Bowen Cox and Julie Jasper. Tammy has served in a variety of administrative roles in the arts community in and around Miami, Oklahoma, and does volunteer work at the Miami hospital and local retirement facilities. She and her husband have volunteered the past 20 years at Horses of Hope, an equine assisted therapeutic riding center.