Porch concerts help build community

When the pandemic forced Pittsburgh and the rest of the world to shut down a year ago, Wil Kondrich immediately thought of his fellow musicians and sound engineers, and the clubs where they worked. How would they survive financially?

Kondrich, 27, who grew up at Word of God Parish, also considered how he could help his Swisshelm Park neighbors who were stuck at home. He and his band started staging acoustic shows Wednesday evenings from his front porch on Pocono Street.

They also collected donations to help live music venues and charities. Neighbors and dog walkers stopped to listen, and interest grew.

Saint Patrick’s Day marked one year of raising money, and spirits.

“My family loves listening to music,” said Kondrich. “The clubs are in dire straits. Right now there’s not really any live music opportunities.”

Recently they raised funds online and in person to support Moondogs in Blawnox, and the Kollar Club and Excuses on the South Side.

“Our neighbors have been great,” he said. “Everybody started having more and more fun. They love this. It helps to build community.”

The police stopped by on March 17 to check on the large crowd.

“There were no problems,” said Wil’s father Keith, who is a deacon assigned to Saint Joseph the Worker Parish and serves as a chaplain at the Allegheny County jail. “In fact, they told us that neighborhoods need more of this, people just getting to know one another.

“Now more neighbors stop and talk, and there’s a sense of belonging. They also feel good about helping local charities.”

Wil Kondrich learned to play the piano at Word of God School, switching to guitar in the eighth grade. He played in the jazz band at Central Catholic High School, then started his own rock group.

His youngest brother Tommy, a senior at Central Catholic, plays drums in the porch concerts. Mom Helen, sister Lily and brother Ted also are supporters. Dad runs the livestream feed at https://www.facebook.com/wil.kondrich.

Neighbors have been mindful of COVID mandates, including wearing face coverings and socially distancing when not with their immediate family.

“I would say we have made a difference in helping people get through the pandemic,” Kondrich said. “I’ve had many people come up and say, ‘This is the highlight of the week.’ That’s been ultimately very fulfilling to me.

“Music has always brought people together,” he said. “If it helps one person, that’s good enough for me.”

Friends and neighbors gather for the one year anniversary of Wil Kondrich’s porch concerts.

Photos courtesy of Keith Kondrich

Video by Anthony Accettulla