Classical Music

ROCO Embarks On 'Grateful' 18th Season

ROCO returns for its 18th season with a slate of works by current composers and new artistic blood.
ROCO returns for its 18th season with a slate of works by current composers and new artistic blood. Photo by Blueprint Film Co.
Sticking to its mantra of “the most fun someone can have with classical music,” ROCO is launching its 18th season with programming worth noticing including a mix of new works and artists guaranteed to excite everyone’s artistic palate.

Themed “grateful,” the season highlights include seven world premieres as well as fresh faces including a newly appointed artistic partner and a composer-in-residence. The season kicks off September 23.

“I wanted to lean into gratefulness because we’ve come out of COVID-19 almost like we've gone through an asteroid field. We’re back in the game and realizing that everything is intact, and for that, we’re grateful,” said ROCO's Founder and Artistic Director Alecia Lawyer, recalling the previous years’ challenges. “When you're in that state of gratefulness, there's a really invitational way that you can approach people to join the musical journey.”

Welcoming both audiences as well as artists is a central tenant of ROCO’s philosophy. The group is known for working with living composers in an effort to produce art that provides currency in the marketplace of musicianship.

Moreso, the season’s programming is peppered with an award-packed bunch of music makers: Pulitzer Prize-winner William Bolcom, Grammy Award-nominated Adam Schoenberg, Juno Award-winner Vivian Fung, acclaimed movie score creator Michael Abels, Emmy Award-winning composer Anthony DiLorenzo and Fullbright scholar Brian Nabors, to name a few.

Lawyer, though, isn’t letting the shine from the awards blind her. She is laser-focused on keeping the organization accessible and available to all.

“That's our modus operandi. We're nomadic, and we really take people on a tour of Houston through music. We’re always seeking new places to bring music to the people. The idea is to meet people where they are,” she said.
click to enlarge
ROCO returns for its 18th season with a slate of works by current composers and new artistic blood.
Photo by Blueprint Film Co.
To that end, the organization is leaving no stone unturned in finding interesting and unexpected venues to bring music to the masses. Performance locations vary from the traditional spaces like Miller Outdoor Theatre and the MATCH to the more modern settings of Rothko Chapel, the Heritage Society, Rienzi, Houston Botanic Garden and Saint Arnold Brewing Company.

That is in addition to ROCO’s innovative QR Code project, ROCO on the Go, which delivers custom-curated playlists via a smart phone. The growing list of locations to find ROCO on the Go include Harris County Precinct 2’s parks, the Houston Public Library, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University and the 5th Ward Cultural Arts District.

To help lead the orchestra through its 18th year, ROCO appointed Scott St. John to artistic partner. Having served as ROCO’s concertmaster since 2012, he will join Mei-Ann Chen as a collaborator and conductor. This year, he will lead a conductorless performance as concertmaster from the chair, and he will helm the group’s mentorship to budding young artists. Specifically, he will provide an ongoing chamber music to the Houston Youth Symphony, which will culminate with a guest appearance on ROCO’s season.

“Scott St. John will foster the growth of artistic input by having a thought partner for the future as well as someone to help with the nitty, gritty of ROCO's artistic side. It’s an exciting step to bring more people into the full leadership of the artistic side,” Lawyer said.

Adding to the creative mix, ROCO has brought on the previously mentioned Schoenberg as its composer-in-residence. His focus is to create a piece inspired by and paired with Aaron Copland’s 13-piece version of “Appalachian Spring” and joined by Houston Contemporary Dance Company.

“We look forward to exploring even more ways to deepen relationship through music,” Lawyer says in the group’s promotional video. "As we emerge from the last couple of years, we find ourselves truly thankful for what we have and what we get to create and experience through the global language of music."
ROCO’s full season is as follows:
  • September 23
    “Family”
    Miller Outdoor Theatre

  • September 24
    “Family”
    The Church of St. John the Divine

  • October 20
    “Seen”
    Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

  • October 29
    “Musical Trick or Treat”
    The Heritage Society

  • November 4
    Kristin Wolfe Jensen, bassoon
    MATCH

  • November 12
    “Fortune”
    The Church of St. John the Divine

  • December 2
    “Yuletide Brunch & Brass”
    Houston Botanic Garden

  • January 12, 2023
    “Beer & Brass”
    Saint Arnold Brewing Company

  • February 4, 2023
    “A House of My Own”
    Rienzi

  • February 18, 2023
    “Friends”
    The Church of St. John the Divine

  • February 24, 2023
    Thomas Hulten, trombone
    MATCH

  • March 23, 2023
    “From Here, There, and Nowhere”
    Asia Society Texas Center

  • April 1, 2023
    Concertmaster Scott St. John & Pasha Sabouri, violin
    MATCH

  • April 15, 2023
    “Simple Gifts”
    Rothko Chapel

  • April 29, 2023
    “Future”
    The Church of St. John the Divine
ROCO’s “Grateful” season runs September through April 2023. For more information, call 713-665-2700 or visit roco.org. Tickets are “Pay What You Wish.”
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Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to the Houston Press who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture.
Contact: Sam Byrd