The Lawrence Chamber Orchestra can trace its roots to Mrs. Jessie Branson, whose husband, Dr. Vernon Branson, built a harpsichord for her after they were inspired by a chamber music concert they attended in 1970 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, in London. Desiring to play her new harpsichord in an ensemble, she invited a small group of interested string and wind players into her home for rehearsals. Eventually the group became known as the Lawrence Chamber Players and gave its first public performance April 30, 1972. From then on, the Chamber Players performed regular season concerts throughout Lawrence.
Over the years the group has evolved, performing in a variety of venues under the direction of dedicated conductors, and collaborating with several area groups, including the Lawrence Civic Choir, Lawrence Children’s Choir, choirs from Lawrence High School and Free State High School, Lawrence Women’s Chorus, Lawrence Arts Center Dance Studio, the University of Kansas School of Fine Arts, Ottawa Suzuki Strings, and the St. Joseph (Missouri) Community Chorus.
In 1998, as part of its evolving and expanding vision, the Lawrence Chamber Players began using the name Lawrence Chamber Orchestra, and that name was officially documented in 2002, as a non-profit Lawrence-based organization performing for the city of Lawrence and surrounding area. In 2013, the name was changed to the Lawrence Community Orchestra. The LCO currently employs an orchestra of from 16 to 35 members, depending on the selected repertoire for each concert.
Past conductors have included John Williams, Karel Blaas, Charles Hoag, George Boberg, Howard Boyajian, Daniel Politoske, Leon Burke III, Juan Francisco La Manna, Eric Williams, Steven Elisha, and Steven McDonald.
Over the years, the Lawrence Community Orchestra has received operational funds from the Kansas Arts Commission, and has been listed on the Kansas Arts on Tour roster. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, corporate and individual contributions, foundation grants, ticket sales, and benefit events.