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Would you attend a concert in a stranger's living room?

Groupmuse is the musical version of couchsurfing.

Would you attend a concert in a stranger's living room?

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.


A Groupmuse performance in Seattle. Photo by Lian Caspi, used with permission.

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 Groupmuse performance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo by Jillian Wheeler, used with permission.

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.

A "massivemuse" in Brooklyn. Photo by Chellise Michael Photography, used with permission.

"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."

An outdoor Groupmuse performance in Jackson, Wyoming. Photo by Dusty Nichols, used with permission.

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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Since the cups are lined with plastic only four cities in the U.S. will accept them for recycling.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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