Performing arts groups grow, thrive in the Lake Houston area

The Kingwood Pops Orchestra is one of many performing arts groups in the Lake Houston area.

The Kingwood Pops Orchestra is one of many performing arts groups in the Lake Houston area.

Image description
Lake Houston performing arts groups continue to thrive, grow
Image description
Lake Houston performing arts groups continue to thrive, grow
Image description
Lake Houston performing arts groups continue to thrive, grow
There are numerous performing arts groups in the Lake Houston area that bring dance, theater, song and music to the community. Decades since their founding, local performing arts groups say their shows continue to attract audiences and gain community engagement.

Jennifer Wooden, director of the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center in Humble, said the push for more performing arts events was simultaneous with the Lake Houston Area Chamber of Commerce rebranding in 2012 to connect the Humble, Kingwood, Atascocita, Summerwood and Fall Creek areas under the umbrella of “Lake Houston.”

The city of Humble took over ownership of Charles Bender High School from Humble ISD in 2014 and renovated it into the 350-seat Charles Bender Performing Arts Center. Wooden said the city’s roughly $4 million investment toward the building created a thriving venue in downtown Humble that hosts a monthly concert series, theater, musicians, dance troupes and classical music performances.

“I think having the arts in an area really adds richness ... [and] culture to an area—and that’s something that was lacking,” Wooden said.

Although the performing arts groups are growing, the groups face challenges when it comes to finding proper performance space, keeping the community engaged in the arts and funding their growing organizations.

A growing community


The performing arts community had been growing prior to the center’s renovation, with organizations such as The Kingwood Pops Orchestra, Centre Stage Theatre Company and The Lake Houston Musical Arts Society—which comprises The Kingwood Chorale and Chamber Orchestra and the Kingwood Big Band—debuting in the 1980s.

Nonprofit the Kingwood Pops Orchestra celebrates a significant milestone this year as it commemorates its 25th season, Kingwood Pops Orchestra President Linda Forys said. Since its beginning, the orchestra has grown from a 25-person orchestra to more than 60 musicians who volunteer their time to put on four concerts annually.

Past performances have included patriotic, Broadway and jazz pieces. More recently, however, the group has focused on attracting more families to the shows by incorporating Disney, comic book and movie themes, she said.

“Kingwood Pops brings a service to those who love music, and an opportunity to play in an orchestra or to sing with an orchestra,” Forys said. “People have a passion for music.”

Additionally, Centre Stage Theatre Company was founded in 1984. It is comprised of roughly 100 local students ages 7-18 years old, but the company also produces shows with adults. Barry Dean, co-founder and artistic director of Centre Stage Theatre Company, said the company puts on two shows a year at the Nathaniel Center.

The Nathaniel Center, which was built in 1986, serves as a multiuse center used for performances, conferences, weddings and graduations, said Chris Sarvadi, director of operations for the Nathaniel Center. The venue has a stage and is able to accommodate 500 chairs during shows for local performing arts groups, Sarvadi said.

Finding a stage


Despite the number of longstanding performing arts organizations in the community, groups agreed the Lake Houston area does not have a facility able to seat large audiences.

While the Lake Houston area has both the Charles Bender Performing Arts Center and the Nathaniel Center, David Livingston, chairman of The Kingwood Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, said neither is structured for classical chamber music.

The Kingwood Chorale and Chamber Orchestra is a group of 80-90 that sings classical chamber music. The group—along with the The Kingwood Big Band that primarily performs jazz numbers—make up the LHMAS.

The LHMAS depends on its partnership with Lone Star College-Kingwood for rehearsal space—which was one of the only spaces at the college not devastated by Hurricane Harvey. Livingston said they also perform at local churches that have proper acoustics.

“One of the problems with that is the publicity goes out, and people see the Kingwood Chorale performing at [a church], so I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh the church choir is singing,’” Livingston said.

Meanwhile, Centre Stage uses performance space at the Nathaniel Center. Dean said the roughly 500-seat center provides the best situation for the Kingwood theater company.

“The biggest problem for theatrical productions is to have a performing space with proper lighting, sound and theater systems that include a fly system and a high hat ... to install a counterweight system to fly scenery and backdrops,” Dean said.

In 2009, LSC-Kingwood was a proposed location for a concert hall that community organizations and students could use. The LSC-Kingwood Performing Arts Advisory Council proposed the Lone Star College System board of directors construct a concert hall at the college, per meeting notes.

Meeting notes showed a consultant said a 1,000-seat concert hall could be built for roughly $27 million to meet the college’s and community’s needs.

Todd Miller, music department chair at LSC-Kingwood and artistic director and conductor for The Kingwood Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, said when the economy downturned in 2008, the concert hall was put on hold.

“[It] would be able to accommodate the Kingwood Chorale and Chamber Orchestra, the Kingwood Pops Orchestra … [and be] a special place for local high school bands,” he said.

Despite the lack of a larger venue designated for performing arts groups, organizations in the Lake Houston area are still thriving—even in spite of Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the area.

Livingston said for the LHMAS—and for many other local organizations—a majority of funds come from donations and corporate matchings and a third of funding comes from ticket sales.

On the other hand, Forys said The Kingwood Pops Orchestra relies heavily on donations and ticket sales. Other funding comes from its partnership with the Houston Arts Alliance, although she said they will no longer receive funding from the alliance after this season, as its performance venue, The Nathaniel Center, is outside of the city of Houston’s boundaries.

To make up for the loss of funding, the orchestra increased its ticket prices for the 2018-19 season from $10 to $15.However, Forys said she believes performing arts is an affordable leisure that adults, children and families can enjoy.

“Some people don’t want to drive downtown, so we’re providing them quality music, high-performing music, high-level music, at an affordable price,” Forys said.
By Kelly Schafler

Editor, Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood

Kelly Schafler is the editor for the Lake Houston, Humble and Kingwood edition of Community Impact Newspaper, covering public education, city government, development, businesses, local events and all things community-related. Before she became editor, she was the reporter for the Conroe and Montgomery edition for a year and a half.



MOST RECENT

A Cy-Fair ISD employee distributes meals via curbside pickup for district students during the summer. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
Community Impact now seeking feedback from parents, teachers regarding 2020-21 school year

Help us adequately cover local education by submitting feedback here:

The Texas Republican Convention was originally scheduled for July 16-18. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Texas Supreme Court rejects GOP appeal to host convention in Houston

The potentially 6,000-person event has drawn criticism in recent weeks from officials who perceive it as a threat to public safety.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo spoke about the county's continuing response to COVID-19 and a new small-business coronavirus relief program at a July 13 press conference. (Screenshot via Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management)
Harris County now accepting applications for $30M small-business assistance program

Harris County businesses with fewer than 30 employees may apply for funding through July 24.

The seven-day rolling average of deaths per day in Harris County has increased from 3.86 on July 8 to 8.29 on July 12. (Community Impact Staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: After three weeks of surging cases, death toll starts to rise

The seven-day rolling average of deaths per day in Harris County has increased from 3.86 on July 8 to 8.29 on July 12.

ballot box
Where to cast your vote in the Lake Houston area on July 14 runoffs

There are several places Lake Houston area that registered voters can cast their ballot on July 14.

Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced in a June 30 State Board of Education meeting that students will be taking the STAAR in the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Pixabay)
Education organizations call for STAAR requirements to be waived another year

Gov. Greg Abbott waived the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR, testing requirements in March of earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a clinical background in internal, pulmonary and critical care medicine, Corry has been with BCM for 20 years. He now focuses primarily on inflammatory lung diseases, such as asthma and smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Baylor College of Medicine's Dr. David Corry discusses immunity, vaccine production amid COVID-19 pandemic

Rapid development and distribution of a vaccine worldwide and successful achievement of herd immunity will be key players in determining the lifespan of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Dr. David Corry, a professor of Medicine in the Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Section at Baylor College of Medicine.

The county's active case count rose July 10 after three straight days of declines. (Community Impact staff)
Montgomery County adds 40 active COVID-19 cases, reaches 3,000 cumulative cases July 10

Five new hospitalizations and 87 new recoveries were also reported July 10.

The new partnership will provide on-site, same-day testing and results for assisted-living facility staff and their residents. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
State announces partnership for increased COVID-19 testing for patients, staff at assisted-living facilities, nursing homes

These test sites will help the state work toward the goal of processing up to 100,000 tests in the first month.

Texas Medical Center reports only 4% uptick in ICU bed use despite continued COVID-19 case increases

Compared to 1,350 total intensive care units in use June 30, Texas Medical Center has seen only a slight uptick in occupancies since then, with 1,394 reported July 9.

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments. (Source: Matt Frankel/Community Impact Newspaper)
Refinancing a home, police departments address protests: Popular news this week from Greater Houston

Read popular stories from the Greater Houston area on Community Impact Newspaper’s website.