Groupmuse Year Two

by Sam Bodkin, CEO

Sam Bodkin, the founder and CEO of Groupmuse

It was two years ago that a wonderful group of people gathered in a beautiful Dedham home on a cold, clear night for the first ever groupmuse. At the time, I didn’t actually refer to the event as a “groupmuse”. The company name was already Groupmuse, but I’d made the flatly dubious decision to call the events “Groupmuse Happenings,” a decision I thankfully revisited a few months later before too much damage had been done.

Anyways, it was at that event that the next willing host came forward, and a chain reaction began that’s put us at over 500 groupmuses hosted all over the world, from cafés in South Korea to the Google Offices in New York City to countless living rooms of all different shapes, sizes, and levels of cleanliness. And what’s remarkable is that throughout these two dozen months, the core experience has remained the same, as have the reasons why people keep returning, week after week: a need for beauty, expression, connection, and warmth.

Referring to the emergence of this social and cultural phenomenon as a chain reaction is actually inaccurate and unfair. Our jobs would be WAY easier if that were indeed the case. The reality is that this exploding community has been the result of a huge amount of hard work on the part of some of the greatest, most passionate, and most devoted people I’ve ever known. 2014 saw our team balloon from 3 to 9 and spread out all over the country. Boston, the city that proved to be the perfect petri-dish for Groupmuse is now run by Ezra, co-founder and COO, and he’s just been joined by Jenna who’s going to help manage the community and extend Groupmuse into the workplace, where it hopes to find bread and butter. Co-founder and CTO Kyle moved to the Bay Area this past summer to bring Groupmuse to sunnier corners of our country. He’s been joined by Matt, who is also helping to develop our Groupmuse at Work project, and by Pete, who he’s been working with to bring us the Groupmuse App, which’ll arrive for iPhone and Android in the next few weeks! Emma Lynn is busy out in the northwest, yanking a Seattle Groupmuse community into existence. I myself have been making my home in New York City, where I have been joined by Emily, who has become our head of community development, and Ben, who serves as our director of communications. That these insanely wonderful, hilarious, loveable, and bright young folks have taken it upon themselves to make Groupmuse a centerpiece in their lives is something for which future music lovers and creators everywhere will be forever grateful.

Over this past year, Groupmuse has not just grown in size, but in dimensions as well. While we’ve been putting on ever more community, living room groupmuses, we’ve also started putting on larger events in awesome spaces with top artists. Conrad Tao played for 200 groupmusers in WGHB’s Fraser Studio — and the event was named one of NPR’s top in-studio performances of 2014. Johnny Gandelsman groupmused in WQXR’s Greene space. We got together a Mendelssohn octet for our biggest crowd ever on a rainy night in Brookyln’s Pioneer Works warehouse art space. While nothing will ever replace the living room groupmuse as the beating heart of what we do and why we exist, there is something very powerful and important about seeing hundreds of 20-somethings collectively engaged in these masterpieces of art that so many people seem to think are no longer relevant or resonant.

In just the last four months, we launched our Groupmuse at Work program in the interest of extending the Groupmuse experience into our daytime lives and also, in the interest of figuring out how to generate some income to support this growing cultural force. Though we’ve only put on a small handful, the response has been extremely positive, and, indeed, it seems that office culture has a whole lot to gain from these awe-inspiring works of exalted beauty.

We’ve had countless pieces of terrific press this past year, from The Boston Globe to TIME to The Wall Street Journal. Moreover, we’re currently in the process of working out some deeply integrated partnerships with a few very large and important organizations. I can’t say much more than that right now, but let’s just say that 2014 positioned us to take some quantum leaps in 2015.

And what does all of this growth and development mean? For the regular groupmuser, not very much at all. The experience of being welcomed into a stranger’s living room, sharing conversation and great art with members of your community, and walking home with a smiling face, tingling with warmth and inspiration — that’ll never change. They’ll grow ever more frequent and convenient, and that’s about it. Indeed, all that we do at Groupmuse — developing our business, forming partnerships, iterating our product, building a bigger team — is all in service of these unforgettable and intimate evenings that have made such a positive difference in our lives and our communities. And, to that end, the Groupmuse team wants to issue a profound thank you to any host who has ever given their space over to the Groupmuse community for an evening, any musician who has ever shared his or her art with our members, and any person who has come, enjoyed, and been a positive presence at any groupmuse that’s happened anywhere. Groupmuse needs you and loves you so very dearly.

Here’s to Groupmuse Year 3!

With gratitude and devotion,

Sam

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Originally published at blog.groupmuse.com on January 15, 2015.