Who We Are

The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) is a forty-piece professional chamber orchestra that was founded in 2005 by Alecia Lawyer. A Juilliard-trained musician with an eclectic background as a performer, recording artist, adjunct professor and radio host, Ms. Lawyer had a vision to reimagine the orchestral experience for both audience and musicians. The result is ROCO: an orchestra of all-star musicians, distinguished conductors and contemporary composers who come together from all over the world to present unexpected classics, original compositions and delightful performances that dissolve the barriers between audience and orchestra.

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Everything You Need to Know

What is a Chamber Orchestra?

There are four categories of classical music instrumental ensembles:

– Symphony Orchestra
– Chamber Orchestra
– String Orchestra
– Chamber Groups

Many people are familiar with the Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Groups.

A Symphony Orchestra is a group of strings, winds and brass that has around 100 members and performs in a large hall that seats 1500-3000 people.

Chamber Group examples are string quartets, duos, trios or quintets like ROCO Brass Quintet that perform in small salons or galleries.  ROCO has multiple performances of chamber groups throughout our season, including our ROCO Unchambered.

A String Orchestra has around 18-20 players that are only strings and sometimes also incorporates an extra wind or brass instrument.

A Chamber Orchestra that is full size consists of 40 musicians with pairs of winds and brass with the possibility of multiple percussion.  There are fewer strings that in a Symphony Orchestra, but the same grouping of violins, violas, celli and bass.  The repertoire (or list of musical pieces that are written for it) is vast and is best performed in a 600-1000 seat space.  There is power in the sound, but intimacy in the experience.  It is its own animal and occupies a distinct space beside a symphony orchestra.  Some music can be the same, such as Mozart and Haydn Symphonies, but there are also many pieces specifically written for the Chamber Orchestra itself.  ROCO is known for performing pieces that are rarely heard, but we are most famous for our World Premiere/Commissions — 43 by the end of our 10th season!  We are adding music to this distinct Chamber Orchestra world.

Do I have to know anything about classical music to come to a ROCO concert (and what do I WEAR)?

There is no need to have any knowledge of classical music to let us share ROCO with you.  We have multiple ways for you to enter the classical music world.  Our house lights are always up so you can read the program that has fun information about the musicians and the music.  We also engage you from the stage with information and stories that open up the concert experience for you.  However, if you do know about classical music, there are many opportunities to learn even more through our concerts and discussions.

You also do not have to dress up to be here with us.  Honestly, come as you are.  We can’t wait to have our musical conversation with you.

To all of you who are new to ROCO, we consider you a friend we haven’t met… yet!

Why do you call yourself ROCO?

Alecia’s oldest son, Jacob, takes credit for the mellifluous moniker.  When forming the group in 2005 to begin residency at St. John the Divine, he knew it was on the corner of River Oaks Blvd and Westheimer, so the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) was born.  While we started with three concerts a year at the church, ROCO has now grown to a 38-concert season throughout the Greater Houston area.

Why do so many of the musicians travel from outside Houston to perform with ROCO?

ROCO was formed with the idea of bringing together professional musicians of the highest caliber who take great joy in what they do and who are very open and approachable on stage, musicians who lift each other to higher levels in performance and enjoy conversing with an audience.

ROCO requires a unique performer who can give a profound recital, collaborate in chamber orchestra concerts, perform concerti for broadcast, and seek fantastic commissions all while checking their ego at the door and bringing in their humor and expertise.  It has never been necessary that musicians live in Houston since ROCO musician’s careers range from soloists and chamber musicians, to professors and founders.

One can imagine the type of conductor who would be needed to collaborate with this kind of group.  We have found wonderful artistic partners who add their own artistic element to the concerts.  Each is unique in what he or she brings to ROCO performances, which is why we bring in different conductors each time.  In fact, we do an annual Conductorless! concert each season.  Since every musician in ROCO is a leader, we enjoy the challenge and the growth opportunity to perform as a string quartet times 10!

Why are there different conductors and sometimes NO conductor?

One can imagine the type of conductor who would be needed to collaborate with this kind of group.  We have found wonderful artistic partners who add their own artistic element to the concerts.  Each is unique in what he or she brings to ROCO performances, which is why we bring in different conductors each time.  In fact, we do an annual Conductorless! concert each season.  Since every musician in ROCO is a leader, we enjoy the challenge and the growth opportunity to perform as a string quartet times 10!

How is ROCO different from other classical music groups?

We don’t just perform concerts.  We use our language of music to weave our community together through continuous creative collaborations.

Super accessible to all ages and for all schedules. In fact, during some of our concerts at St. John the Divine, the audience age has ranged from 5 years to 99 years.

– Early concerts at 5pm on Saturday for the full chamber orchestra concerts.
– Performing throughout the Greater Houston area to come to you.
– Streaming and Video-on-demand to nursing homes and hospitals, engaging our immobile community.
– Music education/childcare ROCOrooters program during and after concert so parents get a date night.

ROCO is regularly broadcast nationally on American Public Media’s Performance Today.  One of the reasons is our dedication to and excitement in commissioning world premieres for each concert. As of the end of our 10th season, ROCO will have commissioned and world premiered 43 works for chamber orchestra and chamber groups.

Our mission:  Shaping the Future of Classical Music through energizing, personalizing and modernizing the orchestral experience.

Our founder, Alecia Lawyer, travels to speak to conservatories, universities and conventions about entrepreneurialism in the arts.  Her talk, Wildcatting in the Arts, serves to truly shape the future of this field.

We make our season personal by programming and planning concerts based upon musician recommendations and their own unique forays into other musical repertoire and styles.  We also connect our musicians to patrons through individual or group sponsorship of each musician in the orchestra.  ROCO belongs to Houston.

Gavin-George-Kana-Lorento

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