Our history begins in 1979 when Patricia Johnson and Ron Scales created the "Society for the Preservation of Spirituals". Patricia and Ron saw that this important legacy of "American Negro Slave Music" was being lost and even confused with Gospel music, and was rarely performed in its original acapella tradition.
The Society for the Preservation of Spirituals was born out of the black church. Inspired by the instruction of Clyde O. Jackson, Minister of Music at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, Mr. Scales asked interested members to help establish an organization that would preserve this musical tradition through community education and performance. The initial board of directors included Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church members Jan Green, Beneva Williams, Robert and Valla Mitchell, Deborah Woods, Jackie Knox and Charles Rusk. Mr. Clyde O. Jackson was the first member of the new organization's advisory board.
Soon Ron and Patricia came to discover that there were other black music traditions that were seldom being performed and vanishing.
In 1981, the organization's name was changed to the Community Music Center of Houston (CMCH) along with the mission to address these concerns. CMCH began its first programming of music instruction for children at the historic Blue Triangle YWCA in Houston's Third Ward neighborhood. Charles Russ, an HISD music teacher, volunteered to teach the first classes. Dorceal Duckins became the first Executive Director and Dr. Robert Henry was chosen as the first Music Director.
In 1983, Anne Lundy became executive director and brought with her the William Grant Still String Quartet which she had formed in 1981. She later formed The Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra which premiered in 1983 with a performance of Handel's Messiah at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. The Music Center's fledgling orchestra was kept afloat in the early years primarily by the strong support of black churches.
In 1984, CMCH moved into its first offices on Almeda St, Houston, TX. Also in 1984, the Intermezzo Singers was formed, an eight-piece vocal ensemble which specialized in a capella singing performing a range of works; from art songs to swing. Later, James Williams and Sam Jackson added a five-piece brass group named Ebony Brass. CMCH introduced its Artist in Concert Series that year. The first artist to appear was talented actor, Wayne DeHart, who performed a one man blues monologue.
Over the years, many other notable artists and groups have performed in the series: Bubba Thomas, Thomas Meloncon, Conrad Johnson, Carmen Balthrop, The Fifth Ward Express, Sea Breeze, and Kim Wade and Company to name a few.
In 1986, the CMCH Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration orchestral performance of Free At Last grabbed such public attention that it served as the theme of Dan Rather's CBS News cast that day.
In 1988, CMCH and the Houston Symphony Orchestra had a joint rehearsal which led to the July 1, 1989 William Dawson Concert. This was the first performance featuring CMCH's orchestra and the Houston Symphony at the Miller Theater under the baton of Anne Lundy, the first black woman to conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra.
In 1990, a second joint concert with Ms. Lundy as conductor was presented again at Miller Outdoor Theater.
In 1991, CMCH presented the first major Juneteenth concert to be held indoors at Houston's Wortham Theater.
In 1992, CMCH began the first out-of-state touring of its larger productions and ensembles. Also in 1992 CMCH began the Music of Motown series at Miller Outdoor Theater. It was one of the most successful serial productions in the history of Miller Outdoor Theater. In fact, our Music of Motown concert legacy continues at Miller Outdoor Theater under the name of Dancing in the Streets.
Throughout the 1990's to the present, CMCH continues to produce shows at churches large and small, colleges and universities, senior citizen's and nursing homes, neighborhood and city wide community centers, Houston's Miller Theater and Wortham Center, and many other venues throughout Houston.
Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra
The Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra (SJCO) is a community orchestra composed principally of African-American orchestra members. It was formed in 1983 under the umbrella of the Community Music Center of Houston, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, by its Music Director Dr. Anne Lundy for three purposes:
1. To give African- American instrumentalists opportunities to perform together.
2. To explore and perform music written by black composers.
3. To be an example to the black community that orchestras can include people that look like them.
Since its inception, SCJO has performed both mainstream works such as Handel's Messiah and beautiful little known music by black composers. These pieces have included works by African-Americans as well as African-French, African-English and African-born composers, some of them world premiered by SCJO. Though most performances have been held in black churches, a few concerts have also been performed in renowned venues and in front of some of the biggest audiences. Notable performance experiences include the joint performances with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. The Links National Conference but chief among these special performances was accompanying pop superstar Beyoncé at Super Bowl XXXIII.
The issue of including black instrumentalists in the world of symphony orchestras remains the focus of the SCJO. The Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra evolved from Anne Lundy's awareness that African-American musicians rarely get the opportunity to play in string orchestras and her revelation that there were many pieces written by black composers for orchestras and these pieces were seldom played.
In 1982, Ms. Lundy, who had established the William Grant Still String Quartet in 1981, called together for 25 black string players for a concert at Houston's Good Hope Baptist Church.
In 1983, after accepting the position of Music director for the Community Music Center of Houston (CMCH) and because of the success of her first concert, Ms. Lundy formalized the orchestra under the name of the Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra. Other black churches began to call such as Antioch Baptist, Wheeler Ave, Baptist and Trinity East Methodist among numerous others. This support helped to maintain and sustain the orchestra.
In 1986, CMCH's Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration orchestral performance of "Free At Last" grabbed such public attention that it served as the theme of Dan Rather's CBS News cast that day.
The orchestra and the Houston Symphony had a joint rehearsal in 1988 which led to a July 1, 1989 William Dawson Concert. With this, Anne Lundy became the first black woman to conduct the Houston Symphony Orchestra. A second joint concert with Ms. Lundy conducting was presented in 1990
In 2013, CMCH and Ms. Anne Lundy launched a youth version of the SJCO.
The Scott Joplin Chamber Orchestra is available for both public and private events including weddings, receptions, and conventions.