River Oaks Chamber Orchestra providing free music, fun this weekend at Miller Outdoor Theater

Miya Shay Image
Friday, September 23, 2022
Inside the innovations at River Oaks Chamber Orchestra
The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra does something truly unusual during their performances, and it's known to make for a better audience experience.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- You walk into a room full of River Oaks Chamber Orchestra musicians, and it initially appears no different than any other group of talented musicians. But in the oboe section, Alecia Lawyer sees her musicians in a far different light.

"It's all about the people," said Lawyer, who founded ROCO 18 years ago.

It all started after she walked into The Church of St. John the Divine as it was undergoing remodeling and realized it would be ideal for a chamber orchestra.

Orchestra jobs, after all, are hard to come by.

"It's 50% harder to get into an orchestra than a Major League Baseball team, and nobody knows that," Lawyer said.

Fast forward two decades later, and ROCO is a thriving orchestra that draws musicians in from all corners of the continent.

"In the past 18 years, we have played in 60 different places in Houston, which is insane. I think I've walked into every building and went 'Ahh,'" said Lawyer, singing out a pitch. "That sounds good. Let's do it here!"

Lawyer sees ROCO as an orchestra that's fun and flexible. Musicians often perform in unique spaces in smaller groups, with musicians flying in whenever there is a performance

"For me, ROCO has always been about these new pathways, a lot of new music. I think the combination of this is really rare, so I love coming down," said Scott St. John, a concertmaster who lives in Canada.

ROCO is performing its Family concert for free at Miller Outdoor Theater on Friday at 8 p.m. Saturday night's performance will take place at St. John the Divine.

And in something truly unusual, they want the audience to bring their cell phones.

"The house lights are up. There's a way to reach the audience. We walk into the audience, so I look for people who love doing that, and if you're not in Houston, that's OK," Lawyer said.

This weekend's concert series will also be live streamed for those who can't make it, aiming to make Beethoven and Bach beloved without being intimidating.

To learn more about ROCO, download their app.

For news updates, follow Miya Shay on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.