Clocking In with Brandy Rettig: Engineer by Day, Drummer by Night
By Rettig to Rumble
I am a 39-year-old woman who spends her days working in field of transportation engineering and her nights working to train her limbs to move independently as I passionately bang them around the used 5-piece drum set in my basement. For the past 15 years I have been a Senior Road Engineer (designing and building roads in King County, Washington), only recently having transitioned to a newer role of public relations and communications for local government transportation related projects. And for the past three years I have been learning, albeit slowly and a bit later in life, how to play drums.
Since the time I was a teenager, I have wanted to play drums. No one ever came out and told me I couldn’t. But not routinely having had the experience of seeing women behind a kit made me think it was something women just didn’t do, so I never pursued it. In my late twenties, I began to see more women playing and I started to wonder if I could too. At that time in my life, I was an athlete—a founding member of the Rat City Rollergirls roller derby league in Seattle and a speed skater. Once my decade long skating career had come to an end, my long held desire for drums returned. I picked up a used kit and a few pairs of sticks and I haven’t stopped banging since.
As a female engineer, I have advocated for getting women, girls and people of color more involved in the fields of engineering, science and math. I believe that type of advocacy is needed in so many areas, including drumming. I see Tom Tom Magazine as helping fill that need, as it has helped inspire even this ‘ol gal to keep banging away and working to progress in both skill and speed behind the drums.
Full Name: Brandy Rettig
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Lives in: Seattle, Washington
Current Bands: The Pissing Match
Past Jobs: Senior Road Engineer
Current Job: Transportation Engineering Communications
Education: University of Washington
Work Hours: Neverending
Band Practice Hours: Never enough
Your Title at Work: Senior Business Analyst
Work Website: kingcounty.gov/depts/transportation/roads.aspx
Your work bio: 15 years of experience in road engineering, construction, and inspection for local government has led me to a position where I now get to be intricately involved in key communications with political officials, transportation professionals, community groups and the public regarding local public works transportation engineering projects. In addition, I love being a strong and vocal supporter of women and people of color in the field of engineering.
Your music bio: I have wanted to play drums since I was a teenager. No one ever came right out and told me I couldn’t, but not routinely having had the experience of seeing women behind a kit made me think it was something women just didn’t do. So I never pursued it. In my late twenties, I began to see more women playing drums and I started to wonder if I could too. At that time in my life, I was an athlete—a founding member of the Rat City Rollergirls roller derby league in Seattle and a speed skater. Once my decade long skating career had come to an end, my long held desire to play drums returned. Three years ago I picked up a used kit and a few pairs of sticks and I haven’t stopped banging since.
New things coming up at work: America’s infrastructure is aging and failing faster than we can replace it and the costs of expanding and maintaining it are growing faster than the revenue streams devoted to fund them. I’ll be spending my time and effort at work helping create technological efficiencies in local government so we can make the most of the dollars we have to preserve the critical road system in my county.
New things coming up with your band: Songs! The process of writing and creating songs is underway. We’re looking forward to many firsts including recording and playing live shows.
How do you fit in touring with your day job?
Being new to drumming and being in a band, touring isn’t yet a problem I have to worry about. I can’t wait to have those kinds of problems.
How do people at work react when they find out you are a drummer?
Most people want to know what kind of music I play. When I tell them I like the really, really heavy stuff, they look at me with that same look of confusion and disbelief as those outside of work do when I tell them I’m an engineer.
How does being a drummer affect your job?
Drummers are leaders–they set the tempo of the music and they help guide their bandmates through a song’s structure. These same leadership skills transfer into my work life when I am called on to lead project teams on construction projects.
Do your band mates know what you do for a living?
Absolutely and they are incredibly supportive.
Have you ever felt like you had to choose between your job and being a drummer?
I very much enjoy my career and don’t feel like I would ever have to choose between them. My job affords me the luxury of getting to play drums. The worst clash comes with late night shows—being out until 1 a.m. when I have to be up at 6 a.m. for work isn’t always the easiest thing.
How did you reconcile that if so?
Naps. Seriously. I catch those zzz’s whenever and wherever I can.
Do you ever hide that you are a drummer or your profession?
I’ve never felt the need to hide either. I’m extremely proud to work and play in traditionally male dominated fields.
How is your job similar to drumming or how do the two complement each other?
Engineering and drumming have a lot more in common than one would think. They both have a need for establishing a basic solid foundation upon which creativity and imagination can be built in endless combinations, resulting in the construction of something completely new and wonderful.
How do you get into the frame of mind of work or drums if you are in the opposite one?
Drums are a welcome escape from work and way to get the stress of the day out of my system. Even if I’m wiped out after a long day at work, I find when I force myself to get behind the kit and bang around I always end up feeling better and fully inspired to do it all over again the next day.