There’s a common perception that classical music is dying among younger generations. It is so many movements removed from the zeitgeist that it has long been relegated to its own bubble outside of “popular” music. Boston-based start-up Groupmuse wants to relieve classical music of its reputation as a stuffy pursuit of the cultured and make it intimate and hip again. Groupmuse and its founder Sam Bodkin aim to do this by creating a social network to host and attend chamber music performances. The process is very simple: People sign up online to host a Groupmuse event; Groupmuse assigns a local classical musician to play a set that night; guests register to attend the event online. The end result is a chamber music house party, with people squashed into couches in someone’s living room around a small classical concert. Having attended two Groupmuses, both of which were played by classical guitarists, I can say that the quality of the musicianship is excellent. The intimacy of the venue allows the listeners to engage with the musicians without the separation of an actual stage: The guitarists explained the pieces they were playing and talked about their relationship with the music. Interestingly, they both performed mostly unusual and lesser-known selections. Because the audience at a Groupmuse is so small, the artists no doubt feel comfortable playing pieces by relatively unknown composers: With no ticket price and almost no expectations, there’s a low-key sense of freedom that is less likely to exist in a professional venue. Music is only half the story in a Groupmuse; much of the enjoyment in the event comes from experiencing it with a small group of similarly inclined people. Hosts are encouraged to serve snacks and refreshments, so the night’s musician can mingle with the guests over crab dip and sausage rolls before the performance begins. The nature of this mingling naturally varies from event to event: Hosts specify online whether the Groupmuse atmosphere will be “low key” or “party time!” and can also indicate the approximate age range expected at the gathering. This is one of the well-thought out features that allows Groupmuse to maximize chances of the night being a success socially: As a young man himself, Mr. Bodkin is clearly aware that there is likely to be a social gap between, say, a 21-year-old and a 29-year-old. On the other hand, at both of the events I attended I found that the experience was much richer for having a diverse range of ages, and I had the chance to meet people with whom I would usually never interact. Groupmuse’s dream of free and social classical music for all is made easier by the accessibility of its website and the proactiveness of its staff. After registering on the site and joining the guest list for an event, first-time users will go through a quick verification process, with the goal of alleviating the slight risk that comes with inviting people into your home who have signed up to do so online. In my case, this involved Mr. Bodkin himself calling one of the friends with whom I was attending the event, and confirming that I was indeed who I claim to be online. It was a nice gesture and an indication that Groupmuse is still a very small operation. In an age when every young entrepreneur is full of ideas about how to leverage social media to do just about anything, Mr. Bodkin and the rest of the Groupmuse team have genuinely hit on a really good idea. Groupmuse benefits everyone involved, brings people together in a unique way, and allows classical musicians some much-deserved if modest recognition. The main question for Groupmuse now is whether it can surpass being a curiosity, a platform for Boston grads to throw alternative house parties, and become an enduring part of the city’s musical social life. Is it just a passing fad, or will it actually deliver on its intention of uniting cultured pursuits with fun? Happily, the trend is still going strong in Boston, with several events weekly, and is making inroads into New York, San Francisco and a few other American cities. If it markets itself and builds its network, Groupmuse ought to thrive in any city that has a sufficient population of classical musicians and people willing to come together to watch them perform. Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.