You might have seen California Symphony percussionist Allen Biggs at the back of the orchestra. During the shelter-in-place, you can find him serenading his neighborhood with his marimba from his driveway.
What was an early influence in your musical life?
I was born in San Francisco. Then when I was three years old, my mother packed up our family of six, and we moved to Pamplona, Spain. My mother was a professor-she worked at San Francisco State University for 43 years-and she received a Fulbright to teach in northern Spain. We lived directly across the street from the bullring in Pamplona, which was very exciting.
A student of my mother’s came to live with us. He was a wonderful guitarist, and he saw that I was captivated by his music. He made me a simple drum, and that started me on my percussion career! My mother’s student, Joaquin Diaz, went on to become a very well known musician in Spain, and he founded a terrific museum of traditional music in Spain. You must go there if you visit Spain.
Are you playing music, now that performances are cancelled?
While sheltering in place, I have been looking for ways to connect through music. Yesterday I played my marimba in the driveway, for neighbors and our dog, Moofa. The response was great! Also, my San Francisco State students are performing together over Zoom. While the audio quality is terrible, and sometimes people lose their internet connection, we get the sense of playing together, so it is worthwhile. Connecting through music remains basic to the human experience, even in this remarkable time.
Is there any upside to this current situation?
The air quality is great, our streets are safer with so few cars on the road, crime is down, and lots of people are riding bikes. Neighbors are waving, and there is a sense of kindness in the air. So there is a lot of upside to this remarkable time. I hope these trends will continue, and maybe we can use this slow-down to finally end of our addiction to burning fossil fuels and using petroleum-based plastic, which is toxic to us, and to all life on this planet.
How are you taking care of yourself?
I am unplugging for at least 24 hours every weekend by turning off my phone and computer. I feel better when I take a break from the screens. Getting the news for a few minutes is fine, but otherwise I try to limit my time watching broadcast news. Also, I join Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for a 30 minute live guided meditation at 7AM every morning. It is so relaxing, and requires absolutely no experience or equipment. It is a great way to feel connected, because over a million people are watching live. I am so grateful to have found this resource. I also am loving playing Bach on the marimba, it gives me a lift somehow.
What are you doing to stay upbeat?
I have been riding my bike! Running with our dog, Moofa, is another way to get outside, get fresh air and exercise, and soak up some sunshine.