Founded in 1960 by a group of chamber-music lovers, CMH (formerly Houston Friends of Chamber Music) has been a leader among mainstream presenters in Houston, and is the third oldest arts presenter in the city. Concerts were first presented at the University of Houston, but within a decade or so shifted to Rice University's Hamman Hall. In 1978, a mutually beneficial alliance was made with Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where CMH now presents its seasons of internationally acclaimed performers in the beautiful and acoustically perfect Stude Concert Hall. While maintaining a co-sponsorship with the Shepherd School, CMH remains a separate entity -- no funding is received from the university. With only the administrative support of one employee for the past 25 years, CMH has been programmed and managed entirely by the Board of Directors. In 2014 the Board voted to hire an Executive Director who will manage much of the day-to-day operation of the organization, while the Board will continue to select performing ensembles and repertoire and write the original and educational program notes for each concert.
In the 1980s, CMH began to expand its aesthetic vision from traditional string quartets, piano quartets and piano trios to include groups such as Paillard Chamber Orchestra, Eastman Brass, the Czechoslovakia Chamber Orchestra, Canadian Brass, Kremerata Baltica and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Octet. In addition to instrumental groups, CMH also presents a choral group nearly every year, regularly featuring the King’s Singers and Chanticleer. CMH makes a special effort to identify and present promising young ensembles, and has a remarkable track record for finding groups that eventually become world leaders. For example, Chamber Music Houston presented the legendary Tokyo String Quartet in its second season and the Emerson String Quartet in its seventh. Other groups, now regarded among the world’s greatest string quartets that have played on our series in their first few years and continue to appear regularly, include Jerusalem String Quartet, Pavel Haas String Quartet, Quatuor Ebène, Pacifica String Quartet and Artemis String Quartet, and the Eroica and Vienna Piano Trios.