‘We’re just broken’: Boris Brott’s family mourns the man who brought out the music in others

Alex and David Brott seek the light.

Surrounded by their loved ones in their family home in Hamilton, they cannot escape the absence of their father, Boris.

“It’s very strange in there,” Alex said, before temporarily transitioning to the present. “He’s such a huge personality. Just the biggest light in the room, and everyone’s just trying to figure out where all the lights are right now.”

Acclaimed bandleader and artistic director Boris Brott was killed in a hit-and-run on Tuesday less than a block from his home in the Durand neighborhood of Hamilton. He was 78 years old.

“We’re just broken,” her daughter Alex said, speaking to CBC near home on Wednesday afternoon. “There’s nothing more to say than that.”

David, his brother, said he remembers the love his father had for the family, especially their mother, Ardyth.

And, of course, his love of music.

“He brought a lot of people together through music, whether they were playing or listening,” David said. “He was a passionate guy and that passion was contagious.”

Alex (left) and David Brott, said they remember their father Boris as a music lover who shared his passion and inspired others. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Tributes and testimonials from the lives Brott touched during his career poured in – from politicians and celebrities to parents who shared how he nurtured a passion for music in their children.

“I think he really loved when people were in it. I think it really lit him up and made him feel really alive,” Alex said.

“He loved, loved, loved when people loved music with him.”

Memorial to “a great Hamiltonian and a genius”

Just around the corner, Carmine Posillipo was tending to a memorial set up on the sidewalk in front of her house near where Brott was shot.

The pair didn’t really know each other – at least not any more than neighbors who wave while walking their dogs – but the Park Street South resident said he felt the need to do something about it.

Carmine Posillipo tends to the Boris Brott memorial which grows outside her home on Park Street South in Hamilton. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

“I wanted to pay tribute to Boris for this horrific accident and the loss of a great Hamiltonian and a genius,” Posillipo said. “I think her light needs to shine for the whole world to see.”

He bought a bouquet and put it down by the road. By Wednesday afternoon, the memorial had grown to include more flowers, candles and a glass angel.

“It’s a beautiful tribute,” Posillipo said after setting up an umbrella to shield the memorial from the rain.

He described Brott as a humble person who had an “aura” he couldn’t explain.

A memorial for conductor Boris Brott grows on the sidewalk near where he was struck on April 5, 2022. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Staring at the memorial, Posillipo said he wished he’d had the chance to get to know his neighbor better.

“I hope this lets the world know that there are nice people here…and that there is respect regardless of whether you’re best friends or just a guy walking your dog.”

Big enough to share with everyone

Hamilton Police are continuing to investigate the collision. Police say the driver who hit Brott fled and was arrested a few minutes drive away. Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating the arrest, which it says injured the driver.

Amid their grief, Alex said the Brott family have been inundated with fond memories and snippets of those who met his father and shared times when he encouraged them.

She said they cling to those moments and celebrate the man who made music stand out in so many people.

“He was such a huge person that we were able to share it with everyone,” she said.

“His big, big gift just made you feel like you could do whatever you wanted.”