Situated about 40 miles north of Houston, Conroe serves as the seat of Montgomery County, one of the most notable places in Texas when you consider the state’s history. In June 1997, Montgomery County dignitaries met to observe the official declaration of a resolution naming the county the birthplace of the iconic Texas flag we’re all familiar with today. The House of Representatives resolution was signed in May 1997 by Gov. George Bush, officially recognizing the county as the origin of Texas’ Lone Star Flag.
Along with its rich history, Montgomery County — in particular Conroe — offers activities to make for a fun family vacation, as well as plenty of music venues and an inviting atmosphere to serve as a Music Friendly Community.
Jodi Willard, marketing manager for Visit Conroe, vouches for the city’s offerings. “Conroe has it all,” she says. “Between the numerous music venues throughout the city, our three breweries [Southern Star Brewing, B-52 Brewing Co., and Copperhead Brewery], Blue Epiphany Winery, Bartletts Distillery and other places along Lake Conroe, there’s live music almost every day of the week and every weekend throughout the year.”
Conroe considers music to be such an integral part of the community that the city council created a designated branch, the Conroe Music Advisory Council, to promote the growth of music and musicians in the city. Although rapidly growing, music has always been a cornerstone in Conroe. In 1955, Elvis Presley made a stop in the city on his Louisiana Hayride tour, while popular performers today like Parker McCollum, Josh Ward and the Scooter Brown Band have all called the Houston suburb home.
Being recognized as a Music Friendly Community by the Governor’s Office is important for the city. “This will make Conroe more attractive for artists,” says Shannon Overby, director of Visit Conroe, “and offer more opportunities to expand or add on to the facilities and venues we already have.”
With a rapidly developing music community, the Conroe Music Advisory Council was created, and Frank Jackson, its founding chairman, presented the idea of becoming a Music Friendly Community to Overby.
“Shannon was immediately supportive of beginning the process to apply,” Jackson says. “From there, it was a matter of getting the city council on board, which wasn’t difficult since one of our councilmen is a prolific songwriter and gospel artist, Hon. Rev. Sleepy Ray.” Conroe was named a Music Friendly Community on Dec. 18, 2018 — one day to the year the idea was first presented to Overby by Jackson.
Along with being a Conroe native, Jackson is an important figure in the music business. He’s been working with Smith Music Group in the Fort Worth Stockyards for the past 20 years but has always maintained a connection with Conroe’s music community. “The idea to nominate Conroe as a Music Friendly Community actually came from my being located in Fort Worth, which was the first city to be given the title,” he notes. “I immediately knew Conroe would be a perfect fit, and the fact that we’re the first and only community in the Houston area thus far to be named a Music Friendly Community makes me and everyone in the city proud.”
Conroe’s location serves as a corridor to Houston, Austin and Dallas, which brings a multitude of artists passing though. Couple the city’s location with its growth and a strong, supportive music following, and you’ve got a match made in Texas.
Jackson’s job with Smith Music Group — a global digital music distributor — is to meet with artists and sign them to the label. He’s taken on many musicians native to Conroe, including Ward, McCollum, Jason Cassidy, Jason Allen, Caleb and the Homegrown Tomatoes, Field of Bronze, Hannah Kay and others. The partnership that Jackson brings with Smith Music to Conroe allows for maximum exposure and opportunities for artists who perform in the city.
Being a Music Friendly Community means more to Conroe than just a title. “My agenda as chairman is to improve what we already have and expand so we’re able to involve more students in the music business,” Jackson says. “Whether it be rapping on a mic to wrapping up a mic cable, there’s a place for everyone in this industry. We want to use this designation to be able to expand educational opportunities and let kids know that you can be a rock star even if you don’t step on the stage.”
The certification is a way for the Music Advisory Council to bring more awareness to how vital music education is to the community and to attract more tourism as a way of expanding opportunities for the economy, distinguishing it from Houston and surrounding cities.
FESTIVALS & EVENTS
Conroe Symphony Orchestra
Since 1997, a group of committed professional musicians as well as gifted amateurs from all walks of life have been dedicated to culturally enriching Conroe by way of the Conroe Symphony Orchestra. Along with more than 225 volunteers, the organization has expanded into three divisions: the Conroe Symphony Orchestra, the Friends
of the Symphony and the Conroe Symphony Youth Orchestra. Being a nonprofit, the CSO is sustained through individual and corporate donations and grants, as well as ticket sales. The orchestra’s main venue for the past few seasons has been Conroe High School, putting on concerts that include traditional classical pieces, popular compositions and featured soloists.
Each summer, the CSO invites the public to don their favorite red, white and blue apparel and enjoy a free-to-the-public patriotic concert that pays tribute to each branch of the Armed Forces. The concert is a chance for the entire family to honor their country, spend quality time together and immerse themselves in the beautiful sounds of wind, string, percussion and brass instruments. This year’s concert will be held at Mims Baptist Church on June 28 at 7 p.m.
Conroe Cajun Catfish Festival
101 S. MAIN STREET
Every year since 1990, the Conroe Cajun Catfish Festival has taken place during the second week of October. Locals and visitors enjoy a fun-filled weekend of Cajun eats, carnival games and activities, the Mr. & Mrs. Catfish Pageant and a live music lineup. The event is put on annually by the Friends of Conroe, a nonprofit that aims to further the well-being of the community and help make Conroe a destination city. Past acts at the festival have included the Randy Rogers Band, Josh Ward Band, Sawyer Brown, Jon Wolfe, William Clark Green and Stoney LaRue.
First Thursdays Concert Series
HERITAGE PLACE PARK: 500 COLLINS ST.
Each summer, Conroe invites residents and visitors alike to find their groove at an outdoor, free-of-charge concert series held on the first Thursday of the month. Beginning in early April and running though the first week of September, the First Thursday Concert Series features two performances — opening acts going on at 6:30 p.m. and headliners taking the stage at 8 p.m. Bring blankets, snacks, friends and family to Heritage Place Park to enjoy a variety of bands that provide a fun experience for all ages.
In addition to the concerts, the Conroe Farmer’s Market is onsite selling beverages, fresh produce, baked goods and other items. Food trucks will also be stationed at the entrance gates of Heritage Place Park so patrons can grab a bite to eat and enjoy a Texas summer night jam session.
ON THE HORIZON
The buzz about Conroe’s growth has attracted attention far and wide. With a projected finishing date of late 2020 or early 2021, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Resort will open its doors to bring beach music and good times to Lake Conroe. The resort will be a 20-story structure featuring waterfront villas with unobstructed views of Lake Conroe, offering guests dazzling Texas sunsets.
LandShark Bar & Grill and 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar & Grill, two Margaritaville establishments, will be available, along with an 18-hole golf course, tennis facilities, spa, restaurants, outdoor pools and 45,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space.
No doubt the introduction of the Margaritaville Resort will attract a range of performers as well as present opportunities for local artists to play to crowds of visitors from around the country. But the new resort isn’t the only noteworthy development in the works. The Spirit of Texas Bank is behind construction of a plaza that will include a large-scale venue that will alter the landscape of the city.
“The Yellow Rose Theatre is in the works right now,” Jackson says. “The venue will seat 2,000 and will present more opportunities for artists to come through and play to larger crowds. We have such a diverse music scene that there really is something for everyone, and developments like this will only expand the horizons of what Conroe can offer.”
With the robust support and resources already invested in the city’s music industry, Conroe is becoming an appealing destination for musicians and music lovers. This versatile, rapidly expanding community provides residents and visitors alike with a memorable music experience.
Each venue and event has its own character and offers the community a range of experiences. The picturesque historical downtown — with buildings over a century old — provides artists the chance to perform in a place with a small-town feel while being close to a bustling metropolitan area. Conroe is authentically Texan.
BECOMING A MUSIC-FRIENDLY COMMUNITY
To be eligible for the Music Friendly Community designation, the following certification steps must be satisfied:
- Attend a Texas Music Office sponsored Music Friendly Community workshop.
- Establish a City/County/Region Music Office liaison who can respond to constituent questions. The liaison must work within a division of government, an economic development corporation, a convention & visitors’ bureau, or within a 501c3 non-governmental organization.
- Register with the Texas Music Office’s Texas Music Industry Directory. The liaison’s organization also signs a mutually agreed upon Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that creates a working arrangement for the sharing of Music Directory data, and establishes protocols for keeping the directory information up to date.
- Demonstrate partnerships with the community’s music-related 501c3 nonprofits in order to foster community development.
- Collaborate with music education programs, including area college or university music schools.
For more information, contact gov.texas.gov/music.