Groupmuse is the musical version of couchsurfing.
Imagine walking into a stranger's living room and being enveloped by a wave of classical music performed by a live chamber ensemble.
That's the atmosphere that Groupmuse, "an online social network that connects young classical musicians to local audiences through concert house parties," is going for.
Throughout much of history, classical music has been associated with the elite — an art form shrouded in exclusivity.
For the average person, attending a performance in a space like the Kennedy Center can be rare and expensive. To remedy this, Groupmuse has emerged as a version of couchsurfing for the music world.
Groupmuse wants to bring classical music to everyone.
They want to connect you with your neighbors through beautiful music.
Drawing inspiration from the phenomenon of couchsurfing, Groupmuse founders Sam Bodkin, Kyle Nichols-Schmolze, and Ezra Weller took the social (and often uncomfortable) aspect of entering a stranger's home, hoping to turn it into a shared culturally enriching experience.
A few years later, they've gotten their wish. Through the platform, anyone in the U.S. can attend performances in their area, host a party (regardless of the size of their living room), and or even set up a musician's page. All that's asked of guests is a suggested $10 donation to pay the musicians.
Although there are only two 20- to 25-minute chunks of music in an actual performance, Groupmuse describes each show as a "three-hour experience" because, as Bodkin puts it, "We believe that the socializing is just as important as the music itself."
Teddy Martin attended his first Groupmuse performance a few months ago.
Since then, he's attended roughly 15 more — even hosting two himself.
"The room crackled with good energy and excitement at what we were all experiencing together. I knew right away that this was something valuable and important for our generation," the 24-year-old New York software developer said.
Performers also praise the experience of playing a show in a stranger's living room. "We [listeners and performers] breathe the music together; we feel together everything coming to life. I felt immediately connected to my audience as soon as I started playing my first note," said Sooyun Kim, a flutist for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Kim has since performed in at least a dozen Groupmuses, even bringing the platform to South Korea.
Since the first Groupmuse show in January 2013, there have been more than 800 living room concerts.
"A major reason people love Groupmuses and keep coming back for more is it's such a great way to connect with the folks around you," says Bodkin. Their hope is that attendees walk away with the "Groupmuse glow."
As for future goals, Bodkin says, "We want to turn this platform into a tool that communities can use to identify and support the artists in their midst."
While this may seem like just another version of the trendy sharing economy, we can't help but feel amazed at the idea of free classical music concerts in a stranger's living room.
Would you attend? We would. Groupmuse, we like where your heads are at.