All heads turn as Keith Groover enters the student-filled lobby of the Fine Arts Center at North Greenville University. “Hey, we were just watching you on YouTube,” a mop-haired coed announces in awe. The instructor turns and deadpans, “I swear this wasn’t staged.” The 42-year-old musician is frequently in the spotlight, after winning the recent Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech. For those who don’t stray far beyond Spotify, the Guthman is known as the World Cup of instrument design—and a son of Greenville’s music scene just brought the award home. But we’re gliding ahead of ourselves.
As a young boy, Keith’s favorite class was music at Bob Jones Elementary. He started on piano at age five, and the trombone not long after that. But his soul found its rhythm when he picked up a guitar while at Eastside High. He and a next-door buddy would bang out Metallica after school. “Looking back, it was probably kind of weird,” he laughs. “We played a lot of heavier stuff, and all of this was on my acoustic guitar.”
By his senior year, he’d found his way to Greenville County Schools’ Fine Arts Center, and spots in the Carolina Youth Symphony and All-State Orchestra. He enrolled at Indiana University as a double bass performance major, before transferring to the University of South Carolina to finish with a music composition and theory degree. The multi-instrument artist then returned to the Upstate, to lead music programs at area churches. Currently, he directs music at Grace Presbyterian in Spartanburg and teaches guitar at North Greenville University.
When not performing, directing, and instructing, the married father of four likes to invent things. Two years ago, he got an idea to create The Glide. “Instruments are not human-centric,” the music educator reveals. “They’re designed to make noise, and then modified just enough for a human to play it. I started thinking, what if there was an instrument designed the other way around? Start with what a human is good at, and turn that into a musical instrument.”
The tinkerer taught himself programming, purchased off-the-shelf parts, and used Spartanburg County Library’s 3D printer to make the instrument, which resembles two game controllers connected by an ethernet cable. Sound comes from an app via Bluetooth. Some 56,000 viewers have watched Keith play Steve Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” with The Glide, on YouTube.
With cautious expectations, the instrumentalist packed up his Glide in a wooden box from Hobby Lobby, and entered the Guthman competition, where he beat out creations from as far away as Australia. “I feel like this is one of the first times in my life where everything I’m good at was able to coalesce into one project,” the smiling winner admits. “I’ve always been a musician, interested in technology, and kind of an inventor, and they all worked together with my philosophy of music and teaching. It all came together.” He can now add businessman to his list of talents, as more than 100 enthusiasts have placed pre-orders for The Glide.
Keith recently debuted The Glide locally at TEDxGreenville. He is also part of the touring guitar/cellist duo WireWood, with Laura Koelle; they will play at Artisphere this month. For more on Keith and The Glide, visit theglide.cc and wirewoodmusic.com.