Visionary brings new energy to Church Studio

Teresa Knox is breathing new life into Leon Russell's former recording studio and the entire East Third Street area.



Teresa Knox on the steps of Church Studio.

Valerie Grant

 

Something exciting is happening for the Tulsa music industry, and Teresa Knox is at the heart of it.

In 2016, Knox purchased Leon Russell’s former recording studio, housed in a 1915 church at East Third Street and South Trenton Avenue. Now she is restoring the Church Studio to its former status as a working, world-class recording studio to open in early 2019.

“Honestly, I’m obsessed with getting it perfect, where all stakeholders’ expectations are exceeded,” says Knox, referring to the music community, the neighborhood, and Russell’s family and friends.

Church Studio // Photo by Valerie Grant

For the project, Knox — who is the founder of Community Care College, Clary Sage College and Oklahoma Technical College — enlisted the help of architect Chris Lilly and three consultants, Chad Hailey, Steven Durr and David Cherry, who are recording studio experts.

Along with renovations to the existing Church Studio, an addition will include a gallery, dressing rooms, restrooms, storage space and a service elevator. An outdoor courtyard/performance space also will be added.

While the Church Studio has an historic musical past — Knox recently finalized its addition to the National Historic Register — developing its future is just as important to her. “I’ve met so many incredible people during this process,” she says. “I interviewed over 200 people as part of my research to get to the truth and capture it in a way that can be loved and shared for generations to come.

“Honoring Leon’s legacy through restoring the Church Studio has been one of the greatest honors of my life,” Knox adds. “This not only pays tribute to Leon’s brilliance, but it also gives a new generation of musicians and fans an opportunity to be inspired.”

‘Studio Row’ takes shape

It isn’t just the Church Studio that Teresa Knox is re-imagining, but the entire area.

Originally, Leon Russell owned 14 buildings surrounding the Church Studio that were used as office space and lodging for employees and musicians, Knox says.

Similarly, she has purchased 11 of the surrounding lots or structures, including the former headquarters — and now satellite gallery — of Garden Deva Sculpture Co., with plans to create a vibrant district surrounding the Church Studio.

Just down the street on Third is the recently opened Teegarden Studio, owned by David Teegarden Sr., former Grammy Award-winning drummer for Bob Seger.

“Teresa is a real sparkplug on that Third Street corridor between Utica and Peoria Avenues,” Teegarden says. “We, Teresa and I, are referring to it as ‘Studio Row.’”

Many other buildings along East Third Street will also be redeveloped through Knox's vision for Studio Row. // Photo by Valerie Grant

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