CARLSBAD — A little-known concert series has made a big difference in one local neighborhood.
Carlsbad husband and wife team Bonnie and Gunnar Biggs started the “Porchella” concert series in 2020 amid the first wave of social distancing and shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a former music teacher and professional musician, Gunnar was the centerpiece of the show, playing a variety of genres for their neighbors and friends.
In the early days, people would gather in lawn chairs or listen while sitting in their cars as Gunnar jammed from his porch. Bonnie organized the events and eventually, the pair began reaching out to other musicians Gunnar had met and played with during his days on tour.
“When the shutdowns came, it created a void for audience and players,” Gunnar said. “The neighbors bought in and for selfish reasons, it gave the players an outlet to play for people.”
Gunnar’s road to music began with his father, who earned a doctorate in music and passed his passion to his son. Gunnar began playing any instrument he could starting with the French Horn and graduating to strings and guitars.
The Carlsbad resident attended North Texas University but left school at 19 when he was hired by the San Diego Symphony, where he played for one year.
Gunnar fell in love with jazz, touring with some of the biggest names in the genre. Eventually, he began teaching as an adjunct professor at San Diego State University with bass (strings) players and also taught at Cal State University San Marcos.
Bonnie said she met Gunnar decades ago at a jazz club and the two have been together ever since. The couple moved to Carlsbad 30 years ago to Evergreen Street near Carlsbad High School. Since then, Gunnar had always wanted to throw a block party but never got around to it.
That is, until the pandemic, when the couple decided to play their music for their neighbors and bring some joy, happiness and therapy to friends.
Gunnar has showcased musicians with a number of instruments, from the mandolin to strings, oboe and guitars, along with different genres of music. Gunnar also recruited his daughter, Auni Keast, a registered nurse at Tri-City who writes music, sings and plays guitar, along with his son.
“We call it the three Gs — the three generations,” Gunnar said. “It just diversified … and just trying to involve the music community and the neighborhood community.”
To date, he’s played 22 shows with two more scheduled in March and April before taking a hiatus. Gunnar Biggs also plays shows at the Encinitas Public Library.
The couple said the audiences have appreciated their efforts to provide a light during a dark time. On average, between 20 to 40 people would attend the Porchella concerts in lawn chairs or in their cars, some honking their approval of the music, according to Bonnie.
“We’re careful about how many we invited,” Bonnie said. “I think the last couple of ones have been a little more populated.”