Church Studio, a sacred Tulsa music space, now also special for married couples | Music
For those who have passed through its doors, 304 S. Trenton Ave. has always been considered a sacred place.
In 1915, the building was Grace ME Church, where it provided space for worship and community.
In 1972 it became Leon Russell’s Church Studio, where like-minded artists came together and created poignant music that would live long after them.
In 2016, new owners Teresa Knox and Ivan Acosta purchased the studio with a mission to restore it to its former glory, honor Russell’s legacy, and provide space for new artists to build from the Tulsa Sound.
But in July, 304 S. Trenton Ave. served a special new purpose. On the 16th, the monument turned into a wedding venue for her first wedding since its renovation. Knox and Acosta’s daughter, Lilliana, married Matthew Mayberry in the original Church Studio sanctuary, now the recording studio’s concert hall.
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“We worked on this property for six years – a lot of blood, sweat and tears were shed there to honor the life and legacy of Leon Russell, but also to honor the church and what it meant to this community over 100 years ago,” Knox says. “To tie it all together with our daughter’s wedding here was so special and very emotional.”
Other parties were also held at Church Studio (notably, actress Sophia Bush held her wedding reception there).
Sarah Davis of Bee Balanced Events planned the wedding. Although she had never planned a wedding in a space like Church Studio before, she was thrilled with the opportunity, Davis said.
“The Church Studio is very unique,” Davis said. “It has so many thoughtful aspects, from the different types of wood to the original brick, which are absolutely beautiful, but they are also fragile. There were challenges, sure, but it’s such a beautiful space that I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
There was talk of holding the ceremony in other areas of Church Studio, Davis said, but once she and Lilliana Acosta got together in the recording room, their decision was made.
“We had floated the idea of doing the ceremony downstairs in the gallery, but when we went up to the recording studio space, we stood in the middle of the room and it was just peaceful,” said Davis said. “We wanted to keep that peaceful and easy feeling.”
Once the location was chosen, it was time to plan how the team of wedding planners and floral designers would transform the registration room in order to host a wedding ceremony.
“We had to completely clean the room of all wires, cords and equipment,” Davis said. “They have high-end audio equipment available for people to record – they actually had a recording the next day – so we needed to have a good plan in place for where to store everything. It was amazing to see what it looked like before and after. It was a totally different space.
Felix Hernandez of Emerald & Olive Floral Design placed elegant floral arrangements in Church Studio, including a halo of flowers above where the bride and groom exchanged their vows. Once the hall was set up, the ceremony – presided over by the groom’s uncle, Scott Young – took place and the couple were married.
Davis and the team flipped the check-in space twice — after the ceremony, they led guests to the bar for a cocktail hour and rearranged the area into a reception hall. Later, staff took guests back downstairs to cut cakes and toast, while staff were busy upstairs turning the space into a dance floor.
“There were a lot of high-fives given after every turnaround,” Davis said. “But we did – it was beautiful.”
Although the wedding staff completely converted the recording room space, one of its most special features remained: Dan Fogelberg’s original Yamaha C7 piano, played by Tulsa Sound pianist Jon Glazer, accompanied by a violinist and a singer.
“The acoustics gave you full-body chills,” Davis said. “I’ve heard a lot of wedding bands, but there was this other aspect, because this piece was made for that.”
The wedding included many other meaningful touches, including a Tulsa club special as the signature cocktail, a live dance lesson from Lionsroad, and Knox’s 1979 Corvette as the getaway car.
“You could see all over Lilliana and Matthew’s faces that they were so happy to be surrounded by so many people who love them,” Davis said. “All night Lilliana was like, ‘Everything is perfect.'”
Organizing his daughter’s wedding as part of what has been Knox’s passion project for the past few years was an incredible feeling, Knox said. And while Knox said she might be open to more events like these, she wants the studio to focus on music and revere Leon Russell’s legacy.
“We’re open as a rental place for people, but our priority is that, first and foremost, we’re a recording studio, and we’re here to support musicians,” Knox said.
For more information about Church Studio, visit thechurchstudio.com.
Photos from February 2022: Take a look inside the renovated church studio ahead of the grand opening