Beloved staple of Hampton Roads music scene Sean Brickell dies suddenly

Virginia Beach

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Alex Snyder was Sean Brickell’s brother-in-law. Snyder is Brickell’s son. WAVY regrets the error.


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A staple in the Hampton Roads music scene passed away Wednesday.

Sean Brickell’s wife of over 30 years, Robin, posted the announcement to his Facebook page, saying he died suddenly on the morning of March 3.

“He always said there will always be two things you take with you to the grave and that would be your reputation and education,” said Robin.

Robin said that was a saying he lived by up until his death. She said he always showed others kindness and worked to make sure his children made it through college. His daughter, Lesley Snyder-Hook, said he was a great motivator.

“He’s always pushing you to keep going and for that, I can thank him,” said Snyder-Hook as she thought back on their memories.

Sean, 69, was a local music critic and the creator of the Virginia Beach American Music Festival. He was also one of the masterminds behind the Virginia Legends Walk at the Oceanfront.

Brickell was the “public information officer,” so to speak, for many other things, including the Portsmouth Pavilion, Hampton Roads Auto Show, She Crab Soup Classic and many other events.

“He was very hands-on and attentive. And he always said ‘That’s why my business works because I care about people and I want them to know that,'” said Robin.

A Virginia Beach native, Brickell attended Princess Anne High School and studied at Old Dominion University.

Brickell was also the owner and president at Brickell & Partners Public Relations.

Friends of Brickell’s remember him as an icon in Hampton Roads entertainment who always paid attention to detail and gave priceless advice.

Brandi Hinkley with her friend Sean Brickell on day three of the 2019 American Music Festival. (Photo courtesy: Brandi Hinkley)

Brickell was the longtime spokesman for IMGoing President Ken MacDonald.

“Sean was so full of life and was so excited for live music to come back. I’m shocked and heartbroken that he won’t be here to see it,” MacDonald said.

Joel Rubin, the founder and president of Rubin Communications Group, remembers Brickell’s deep roots in Hampton Roads.

“Sean was a real leader in the PR community and was extremely active in the music scene. He wrote music reviews for the [Virginian-]Pilot before he got into PR and then had a number of music event clients including the American Music Festival. His father-in-law owned Checkered Flag, and I don’t know whether that was the connection that got him to represent the Hampton Roads [Automobile] Dealers Association, but Sean did the PR for the big Virginia Beach auto show every year and according to their website, was their executive director at the time he died. He also did a lot for people who were alcoholics by participating in an organization that provided services for them at major music festivals across the country. He was a great guy who did a lot of good for a lot of people.”

Joel Rubin

Above all else, those closest to him said the Virginia Beach native, was a loving father of three, dedicated husband, and older brother.

“We shared a love of reading, baseball, and Bruce Springsteen… He was a good guy,” said Brickell’s sister, Heidi.

One of his children, Alex Snyder, said he had a knack for making strangers smile.

“One of his favorite things to do was to say or make statements to people that got their attention or invoked a conversation of some sort,” said Snyder.

Snyder posted on Facebook that around 10:30 a.m. Brickell’s Apple Watch “sent a signal to emergency response people saying he had no pulse. They tried all they could on the way to the hospital.”

Robin said doctors believe he had a heart attack, but the cause is still being investigated.

In keeping his legacy alive, one of the things Brickell and his son Quinton or “Q” Brickell, created together was a nonprofit that created safe spaces at concerts for those who struggle with alcohol and drug addiction.

Q said the idea came to him after he dealt with his own addiction challenges at concerts and raves. They dubbed the organization “Harmonium.” It took a team to make it all possible, but Quinton said his father helped him take it to a bigger level.

“My dad said that’s a great idea, but I think we can make it bigger, ” Q stated.

Q said it started with 20 to 30 attendees, and now well over 200 show up in their tent during different events.

“My father in his 60s would come out at the camps and sit there and do exactly what we were there to do, ” Quinton explained.

If you’re interested in donating to Harmonium, you can do so by clicking here.

Quinton said a long with his father it wouldn’t have been possible without Patrick Whelan, Ken Macdonald, Mike Jones, Patt Ochoa, Rich Farman, Pasquale Rotella, and Brad Waldo.

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