Da Camera of Houston has established itself as one of America’s leading presenters and producers of ensemble music. The organization is widely acclaimed for its innovative programming, notably Artistic and General Director Sarah Rothenberg’s unique concerts connecting music with literature and the visual arts, as well as for its jazz series, featuring a a distinctive mix of renowned performers and emerging artists.
Da Camera takes its name from the Italian phrase musica da camera, which literally means “music of the room,” or “chamber music,” and refers to smaller ensemble music with one musician on a part, usually performed without conductor. Da Camera embraces a broad definition of chamber music to include both classical music and jazz. The organization brings leading American and international artists to perform at the Wortham Theater Center, The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts and The Menil Collection in a subscription series of curated programs which are often thematically related. Enjoying a 28-year partnership with The Menil Collection, Da Camera’s concerts in the Renzo Piano-designed museum feature special programs created for the museum’s exhibits, free family concerts, and community residency activities. As a member of the Houston Theater District, Da Camera of Houston is recognized, along with the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera, as one of the city’s major performing arts organizations.
Under the artistic direction of pianist Sarah Rothenberg, Da Camera’s goals include connecting music to other art forms; expanding the awareness of American music through the presentation of jazz and the commissioning of new compositions; and developing partnerships with a wide range of cultural institutions locally, nationally and internationally. Da Camera has been involved in the commissioning of more than 25 new works by some of the nation’s leading composers. A recognized trend-setter in innovative programming, Da Camera presented Marcel Proust’s Paris, the first of its Music and the Literary Imagination programs created by Sarah Rothenberg, as part of the Great Performers at Lincoln Center series in 1995. The success initiated a series presented by Lincoln Center for the next four years, as well as the co-commissioning of Moondrunk, a chamber music/dance theater piece conceived by Ms. Rothenberg which was hailed in New York as “the birth of a new genre.” Da Camera programs have also traveled to Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, London’s Barbican Centre and to other prestigious concert series and festivals throughout the country and in Mexico and Europe.
Each season, Da Camera’s artist roster includes over 60 musicians, representing distinguished performers from around the world and outstanding musicians based in Houston. Da Camera’s unique chamber music concerts are the result of collaboration between visiting artists, local musicians, and artistic director Sarah Rothenberg. Da Camera has presented such renowned performers as Gidon Kremer, The Juilliard String Quartet, Wayne Shorter, Leon Fleisher, Richard Stoltzman, Sonny Rollins, Dianne Reeves, The Brentano Quartet, Dawn Upshaw, McCoy Tyner, and countless others.
The recipient of numerous awards, including a Special Commendation for Outstanding Programming Concepts from Chamber Music America in 1998, Da Camera was chosen by its peers to receive the CMAcclaim National Award in 2007, in recognition of the organization’s “significant contribution to the cultural life of its region.” Contrary to national trends, Da Camera’s audiences have been growing annually for the last decade. With its innovative programming, dynamic outreach activities, and artist residencies, Da Camera of Houston brings together musical excellence of uncompromising artistic standards with deeply-rooted community programs, striving to make great music accessible to all.
Da Camera Milestones
1987 – Organization founded by violinist Sergiu Luca
1988 – First concerts at Wortham Theater Center’s Cullen Theater and The Menil Collection
1988 – First outreach series, A Little Day Music, begins, going on to serve tens of thousands of students, seniors and downtown workers with free concerts
1991 – First grant received from National Endowment for the Arts
1993 – Da Camera becomes Houston Theater District organization, joining Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony, Society for the Performing Arts and Theater Under the Stars
1994 – Pianist Sarah Rothenberg becomes Artistic Director
1995 – Da Camera Jazz series inaugurated with vocalist Abbey Lincoln and trumpeter Roy Hargrove
1995 – First production in Music and the Literary Imagination series, Marcel Proust’s Paris, has Houston premiere and is presented in New York as part of Lincoln Center’s Great Performers series
1995 – Da Camera offices move to 1427 Branard location
1996 – Working Capital Reserve Fund established
1996 – Meet the Composer grant received for commissioning of George Tsontakis’s Meditations at Perigee
1996 – St. Petersburg Legacy presented by Great Performers at Lincoln Center
1997 – Flowers of Evil, Kafka’s Vision and The Musical World of Thomas Mann presented by Great Performers at Lincoln Center
1997 – Marcel Proust’s Paris presented at Washington, D.C’s Kennedy Center
1998 – Marcel Proust’s Paris presented as part of Cervantino International Festival in Guanajato, Mexico
1998 – Surrealism presented by Great Performers at Lincoln Center
1998 – Music/dance theater program Moondrunk premieres at Wortham Theater Center
1998 – Revenues first exceed $1 million
1998/1999 – Music and the Literary Imagination series presented by De Ijsbreker Series in Amsterdam and Maastricht, The Netherlands
1999 – Moondrunk opens Lincoln Center’s New Visions series to sold-out houses at New Victory Theater; American Theater hails as “birth of a new genre”
1999 – Da Camera Endowment Fund established
1999 – St. Petersburg Legacy presented at London’s Barbican Centre as part of the BITE Festival
1999 – Chamber Music America/American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Commendation for Original Programming Concepts
1999 – Education and Outreach department formally established with a grant from Wortham Foundation
2000 – Da Camera embarks on a one-year partnership with Marian Anderson String Quartet and Texaco Foundation’s Early Notes program to bring chamber music residencies to six rural communities throughout the Southwest
2001 – Community Residency Project with Project GRAD brings Marian Anderson String Quartet to two schools in Houston’s Near North Side for two years
2001 – Da Camera concerts begin to be regularly broadcast on National Public Radio’s Performance Today
2002 – Creation of Epigraph for a Condemned Book, a solo piano/multimedia performance project, co-commissioned with Yale Repertory Theatre, the University Musical Society of University of Michigan and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
2003 – Community Residency Project with Ying Quartet brings chamber music to the workplace at Shell Oil and BMC Software, with support of Heartland Arts Fund
2004 – Community Residency with Miró Quartet brings ensemble to local corporations and organizations including The Salvation Army and the Chinese Community Center
2004 – Community Residency Project with Brentano String Quartet and Writers in the Schools exploring music and poetry with young students, made possible by Chamber Music America
2004 – Da Camera recording, Heartsounds: Music of George Tsontakis, issued on Koch International Classic label, made possible in part by grant from Aaron Copland Fund
2006 – Community Residency Project with JazzReach features Metta Quintet master classes, student concerts
2006 – Community Residency Project brings Imani Winds to Houston Independent School District schools, with support from Chamber Music America
2006 – Stop, Look and Listen! free family series at The Menil Collection begins
2007 – The String Quartet in America: Then and Now: symposium and master classes with Juilliard String Quartet and others at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, marking the quartet’s 60th anniversary. Performance of Bartók quartet cycle at The Menil Collection.
2007 – Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming
2007 – CMAcclaim Award from Chamber Music America, for significant contribution to the cultural life of our region.
2008 – The Music of Charles Wuorinen released on Naxos label, with support from Aaron Copland Fund and National Endowment for the Arts
2008 – Community Residency with So Percussion
2009 – Community Residency with Chiara String Quartet
2009 – Young Artist Program providing professional development and performance opportunities for emerging chamber music and jazz musicians established.
2009 – In partnership with KUHF, Da Camera introduces podcast of live concert recordings.
2010 – Community Residency with Ben Allison Band.
2010 – Da Camera receives three major grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest cumulative grant from the federal agency in Da Camera’s history
2010 – Earth Day Jazz in the Park, sponsored by Waste Management and Whole Foods Market, brings student jazz ensembles to Miller Outdoor Theatre on Earth Day, 2010.
2010 – Da Camera production Chopin in Paris, featuring pianist and Artistic Director Sarah Rothenberg, goes to Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Michigan, co-presented by Fontana Chamber Arts
2011 – Da Camera begins annual series, Da Camera JAM at Discovery Green, bringing local and national jazz artists to the downtown park for four concerts celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month.
2011 – World premiere of a Tobias Picker’s Piano Quintet: Live Oaks, commissioned by Da Camera
2012 – Da Camera announces 12/13 25th Anniversary Season with world premieres by Kaija Saariaho, Pierre Jalbert and Richard Lavenda, the new original production Sarah’s Rothenberg’s In the Garden of Dreams and the first-ever Houston cycle of the Shostakovich string quartets, performed over two seasons by the Jerusalem Quartet.
2012 – Da Camera marks the centennial of composer John Cage with a MUSICIRCUS at the Menil Collection featuring the Meehan/Perkins Duo, mezzo soprano Isabelle Ganz, percussionist Allen Otte and student ensembles from around the state of Texas. The event marks the beginning of a residency with Meehan/Perkins Duo, celebrating the lives and music of John Cage and Steve Reich.
2013 — World premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Sombre, commissioned by Da Camera.
2014 — Completion of historic Shostakovich String Quartet cycle by the Jerusalem String Quartet; first time complete cycle performed in Houston
2014 — World premiere of Vijay Iyer’s Piano Quintet, co-commissioned by Da Camera.
2014 — Surpassing the original fundraising goal of $500,000, the Artistic Development Fund established in 2013 reaches $514,000. Fund provide the essential seed money for ambitious artistic initiatives, including commissions, recordings, residencies, original productions and new media initiatives.
2014 — Jason Moran: Homecoming multi-year residency kicks off with September visit to Houston by the pianist and composer. Year 1 of residency includes world premiere of Da Camera-commissioned Holed Up: The Rauschenberg Project.
2015 — Da Camera releases two new recordings, Rothko Chapel on the ECM label featuring Morton Feldman’s masterpiece of the same name, and Kaija Saariaho: Let the wind speak on the Ondine label, featuring the Da Camera-commissioned Sombre.
2015 — At the invitation of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Da Camera programs four evenings of music in the spectacular Spiegeltent at Bayou Bend.
2016 — Da Camera moves to current office and music center at 1402 Sul Ross, expanding to offer a rehearsal room for visiting artists, staff and Da Camera Young Artists.
2016 — Da Camera awarded $50,000 Cultural District Project grant by the Texas Commission on the Arts, supporting significant cultural tourism projects, including arts programming that will attract visitors from 50 miles or more outside Houston.
2016 — World premiere of Sarah Rothenberg’s A Proust Sonata, an original production exploring the life and work of the great French author.
2016 — Jason Moran Homecoming Residency continues with school visits and community events including Meet Me at MacGregor, part of Counter Current 16, presented by residency partner the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.
2016 — Da Camera presents the world premiere of The Colorado, a documentary with live original music by Paola Prestini, John Luther Adams and others, exploring water, land and survival in the Colorado River Basin.