Colorado has some music venues that are notorious for ignoring cannabis use, but most of those places aren't booking classical music. Groupmuse, a network of event organizers and musicians, has been setting up small and large classical music shows in both private homes and public venues across the country for over five years, but now it wants to expand accessibility. So last month, Groupmuse began hosting cannabis-friendly shindigs, or "groupmuses," in Boulder and Denver, setting up private parties with local musicians so that attendees could enjoy their tunes at a new, higher level.
We caught up with Groupmuse founder Sam Bodkin to learn more about these new, intimate music sessions, and how consuming cannabis can further connect both listeners and performers to the classical canon.
Westword: What is Groupmuse, and how did the concept arrive in Denver?
Sam Bodkin: Groupmuse is an online network that connects local classical musicians with folks, so that the community can create its own classical music house parties, open to friends and community members. It's a community built around these culturally, socially and spiritually enriching evenings happening all over the country. They're free to host, anyone can do it, and everyone who attends is expected to give a minimum of $10 to the performers. It's about bringing new audiences to classical music and creating opportunities for players to make money and build a crowd, but it's more about creating meaningful opportunities for communities to gather and share something profound together — and to connect and build lasting bonds over that experience.
We've had over 4,000 nationwide groupmuses, and our first few in Denver started around four years ago thanks to a few motivated local musicians who loved the concept. Recently, however, we've brought on some on-the-ground organizational help in Denver and Boulder, so our presence here is slowly scaling up.
When did you decide to start including cannabis in the Groupmuse sessions?
The first 4/20-muses were in Portland, where we were working with an awesome growing operation that sponsored the evenings with free green. Folks loved them, so we thought we'd bring the idea eastward. Part of the reason we think the idea makes so much sense is that the 4/20 community is so vibrant and dynamic, but it lacks spaces for folks to come together to commune over the sacred herb. After all, there aren't [enough] sanctioned hash bars where folks can gather and get to know each other over a joint.
The fact that a groupmuse is both semi-public (half the crowd is friends of the host, and half is members of the Groupmuse community, which anyone can join) and happens in our private residences means we have a really cool workaround. Groupmuse can be a place where the cannabis community comes together and blends with other communities over these really mind-blowing works of art. It didn't take long for us to decide that we needed to bring the initiative to Denver and Boulder. However, our growing and supply partner isn't active locally, so we just decided that if anyone wants to host a 4/20 groupmuse in Denver, Groupmuse will gift your crew an eighth for the evening.
Everyone's experience is their own, but I've found that cannabis substantially opens up my sensitivity and receptivity to the textural and emotional swells of music — and I think that's especially true with classical music, which has so much subtlety, depth and dynamism. We think that not only will cannabis bring members of the Groupmuse community closer to each other, it will also bring folks closer to this form of music that has so much to say, even after 200 years.
Have you held any cannabis sessions in Denver or Boulder yet?
We had a 4/20-muse on 4/20 in Boulder! Everyone loved it, which is part of the reason we decided to do this promotion, gifting free green to anyone who wants to host a 4/20-muse of their own.
Let's say I wanted to host one of these cannabis-friendly shindigs. How would I go about setting that up?
Real simple: Reach out to David, our local community manager, at [email protected], and say you want to host a 4/20-muse. It'll only take you a couple minutes to set up your first event. We match you with great local classical musicians, bring some nuggets to the performance and let the magic flow. And if a couple of friends who are at your 4/20-muse are inspired to host one of their own, we'll gift some free supply for their event, too! I'll add that if the demand is too explosive, we might have to consider taking a step back from the rather generous offer of free weed, but that would be a good problem to have!
How have musicians responded to these cannabis sessions?
Our feedback from musicians has been great. We're told that the audiences are very attentive — even mind-blown, you might say. Classical musicians are encouraged to sign up and get involved at groupmuse.com/perform. You submit a few performance links, and if you're approved by a Groupmuse admin, you're free to play as many groupmuses as you want! The average musician walks away from a show with $160 in their pockets — so the payday's not bad, either.