Classical Music

ROCO Rides Big Waves With 2023-24 Season

ROCO makes a big splash this season with "Making Waves."
ROCO makes a big splash this season with "Making Waves." Photo by Joel Luks
ROCO returns this weekend for its 19th season with a big splash. “Making Waves,” the theme for this year, will celebrate innovation, exploration and the impact of artistic creativity and integrity in the community with more than 18 works by female composers and will present multiple world premiere commissions, co-commissions and two rescores. Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour will join as Composer-In-Residence, and the organization will continue collaborations with Houston Contemporary Dance Company.

“ROCO has been making waves for years,” said Alecia Lawyer, ROCO’s artistic director and founder. “We researched all different types of waves to give names to each of the concerts. It was really fun cross-pollinating science, art and music. The best part is music really can be the tie that binds all of it together.”

The highlights of the season are manifold. A ROCO commission by Anthony DiLorenzo for Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre’s 100th Anniversary is based on award-winning documentary filmmaker Lois Stark’s acclaimed book, “The Telling Image,” in which Stark takes the reader on a worldwide journey and “unveils a crucial, hidden key to understanding the universe: shape itself.” The work will be accompanied with text-informed AI animation by Cynthia Lee Wong.

A Quinn Mason rescore of his thought-provoking work “19th Amendment” (fitting for a 19th season) will spotlight the women musicians of ROCO. Rounding out is another rescore by Kevin Lau, expanding the original trio piece “The Nightingale” that was published as ROCO’s first children’s book for the full 40-piece orchestra.

Composer-in-Residence Danielpour will also get a chance to shine. He is writing a deeply personal work about the current uprising of women in Iran, dedicated to his mother, an Iranian sculpturist. ROCO also presents two additional world premieres by Danielpour based upon Dante’s “Divine Comedy.”

“He's a titan in our field,” Lawyer said of Danielpour and her serendipitous timing when reaching out to him about the residency. “He had already written the second movement of the “Divine Comedy” triptych, and he had been wanting to find an orchestra to write the other two movements for, which was a complete no-brainer for me.”

It’s ROCO’s win and Houston’s benefit as Danielpour comes with an arm’s-length list of achievements. Among them, he received two awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters, a Guggenheim Award, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, two Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships and The Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin. His list of commissions, which is a who’s-who of classical performance, include some of the most celebrated artists of our day like Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, Dawn Upshaw, Susan Graham, Emanuel Ax and oh-so many more.

It would not be ROCO without local collaborations, so the organization will once again partner with Houston Contemporary Dance Company for two world premieres, one for a work by composer James Stephenson inspired by the 13-piece version of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and the second for Mason’s aforementioned “19th Amendment.”

One final note for the season Lawyer looks forward to is the League of American Orchestras 79th National Conference, which will be held in Houston in 2024.

“What's also really fun and kind of subtle, but it's really profound, is we're ending the season with a performance at the conference,” she said. “I want to highlight what ROCO’s work is, because for the first time in the history of conferences of orchestras, it's in Houston. This will put ROCO on the national stage in the best way.”
click to enlarge
ROCO returns for its 19th season with a slate of works by current composers and new artistic blood.
Photo by Blueprint Film Co.
The full ROCO 2023-24 season is as follows:

September 29 and 30
Seismic (In Concert Series)
September 29 at 8 p.m., Miller Outdoor Theatre; livestreamed
September 30 at 5 p.m., The Church of St John the Divine; 5:00 livestreamed

October 12
Sight and Sound (Connections Concert Series)
7 p.m., Lynn Wyatt Theater, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

October 20
Rise Up (Connections Concert Series)
7:30 p.m., Asia Society Texas Center; livestreamed

November 4
Rachel Jordan, Violin (Unchambered Series)
7:30 p.m., The Historic Eldorado Ballroom

November 11
Infrared (In Concert Series)
5 p.m., The Church of St. John the Divine

January 10, 2024
Beer and Brass (Connections Series)
6:30 p.m., St. Arnold Brewing Company

January 27, 2024
Blossoms (Connections Series)
5 p.m., Rienzi, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; livestreamed

February 10, 2024
Simple Gifts (Connections Series)
5 p.m., Rothko Chapel

February 14, 2024
Heart and Soul – and Your Brain! (Connections Series)
12 and 4 p.m., MD Anderson Cancer Center, Park Atrium

February 24, 2024
Supersonic (In Concert Series)
5 p.m., The Church of St. John The Divine

March 2, 2024
Alexis Gerlach, Cello (Unchambered Series)
7:30 p.m., MATCH; livestreamed

April 19, 2024
Addio (Connections Series)
7:30 p.m., Location TBD

April 27, 2024
Luminescent (In Concert Series)
5 p.m., Lucian and Nancy Morrison Theatre at Brockman Hall for Opera, Rice University

JUNE 7, 2024
Magnetic (In Concert Series)
10 a.m., Kinder HSPVA Theater
League of American Orchestras National Conference
EarShot Showcase with American Composers Orchestra

ROCO's 2023-24 "Making Waves" season launches September 29 and continues through June 7 at various locations across Houston. For information, visit To reduce barriers to entry, ROCO employees a "Pay What You Wish" model.
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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