The Official Free Live Music Capital of North Texas Is ... Rockwall?

Rockwall city officials founded the Concert by the Lake series in 1999.
Rockwall city officials founded the Concert by the Lake series in 1999.
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On June 15, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Concurrent Resolution 42, which designated the city of Rockwall the official Free Live Music Capital of North Texas for a 10-year period. The city puts on over 100 free concerts a year.

“Music kind of permeates every part of life here in Rockwall,” Russ Porter, resident and owner of the Rockwall School of Music, says. “It just makes it a wonderful place to live, especially for us who do make our life passion about playing and listening to music.”

State Rep. Justin Holland of Rockwall filed HCR 42, which passed through the 85th Texas Legislature with a 6-0 vote in both chamber committees. In the resolution, Holland says “the city of Rockwall has long been committed to fostering a dynamic arts scene in its community, and live music has played a vital role in that mission.”

Rockwall has a variety of live music venues, but the city has recently renewed its efforts to make free music performances accessible to the public.

“We host free concerts all the time,” Robert Paulsen, Holland’s chief of staff, says. “It’s just something we really wanted to highlight in the city, and it’s something the city is very proud of. It gives bands an opportunity to get their voice out there, and we like to provide that opportunity, all while providing entertainment for our citizens.”

In 1999, Rockwall city officials founded the Concert by the Lake Series at the Harbor Amphitheater along the northeastern shore of Lake Ray Hubbard. The Harbor features live music every day of the summer, with Concert by the Lake hosting free shows every Thursday. The acts booked span all genres.

It has become one of the city’s biggest attractions, motivating the city of Rockwall to back music in other ways. Another city project, The Live Music Project, saw the construction of permanent stages in Rockwall's historic downtown and amphitheaters at The Harbor and Harry Myers Park, which are now regularly used by the Rockwall Philharmonic Orchestra, Rockwall Summer Musicals and the San Jacinto Plaza Music Series.

“It’s weird,” Mitchell Morrison, local musician and co-owner of Morrison Guitar Shop, says. “It was kind of one day all of a sudden that there were all these places to play. It kind of sprung up overnight.”

In the resolution, Holland says that “residents are now able to enjoy nearly 130 free live music performances each year, and the town's growing reputation as an important music hub has made it a popular destination for travelers across Texas and beyond.”

In addition to the new live music venues, Rockwall Founders Day Festival, the city’s annual free birthday celebration, has featured several big local and touring bands in Harry Myers Park since it began in 2004.

Asleep at the Wheel, the Marshall Tucker Band, the Little River Band, Charlie Daniels, Pat Green, Cory Morrow and Dallas’ Ryan Berg have all performed. During the 2017 Founders Day Festival, the city of Rockwall officially announced the city's new title.

Prior to HCR 42 being filed, Senate Concurrent Resolution 5 would have designated Rockwall as the Live Music Capital of North Texas. However, Paulsen said the city of Rockwall had to negotiate with Denton city officials over the title. Subsequently, the word "free" was added and placed in a new resolution.

“It’s something we had to work on with the Denton representatives,” Paulsen says. “They obviously enjoy their music a lot too, so that’s where we came up with the ‘Free Live Music Capital.’ It’s something I think distinguishes Rockwall, that ‘Free’ designation. Whereas you may have to pay 10 bucks or a cover to get into somewhere in downtown Dallas or Denton, you can come right here and prop a chair up on the water and listen to some music.”

Live music is a highlight for Rockwall, and for the next decade the citizens can officially claim the city as the North Texas hub for free live performances.

“Music is the ribbon and the bow on top of the total package of what people love about living here in Rockwall,” Porter says. “With the diversity of styles of music being offered here, I think everybody can find a way to get plugged in or find an element of music that they really connect with.”

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