Photo Credit: Dennis Weber

Berlin-based American conductor Roderick Cox ’11 MMus was the winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award. He has gained international attention for recent appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Houston Grand Opera, and Philharmonia Orchestra in London. Highlights of the previous two seasons include performances with BBC Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Dresdner Philharmonie, Cleveland Orchestra, Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, and Iceland Symphony Orchestra. He is the former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Through his passion for education and diversity and inclusion in the arts, Cox started the Roderick Cox Music Initiative in 2018—a project to help provide scholarship funds to young musicians of color from underrepresented communities, allowing them to pay for instruments, music lessons, and summer camps.

What made you choose the Bienen School of Music?

The conducting program at Northwestern had a wonderful reputation and was certainly thought of as one of the dream schools among students at my undergraduate university who wanted to pursue conducting. The Bienen School of Music was my long-shot choice, and I didn’t expect to receive an audition. However, I knew that with its long history of successful alumni, it would be my number one choice if accepted.

Tell us about a particular experience that impacted you during your time at the Bienen School of Music.

The moment that sticks out the most is when I made the rather difficult decision to change my area of concentration from wind conducting to focusing more on orchestral conducting after taking a class in orchestral conducting. I decided halfway through my studies that I wanted to be a professional orchestral conductor, which meant a completely different path and music I needed to study. This decision meant instead of studying with only one conducting teacher, I would split my time studying with both. Victor Yampolsky and Mallory Thompson were amazingly gracious and supportive of my decision and the school showed a type of flexibility to accommodate my desires that I would not have seen at many other schools.

What lessons did you learn at Bienen that have continued to resonate with you in your career?

One important lesson I learned from Mallory Thompson was to never let my race play a determining factor in thinking it is the reason I did not achieve something. Another lesson I learned was to never try to squeeze an interpretation of music into your present technical capabilities, but to always try to expand your capabilities to match your imagination of sound.

Top three of your Desert Island Discs (any genre)

Brahms: Complete Symphonies - Pittsburgh Symphony (Marek Janowski, conductor)
Strauss: Four Last Songs - Jessye Norman (Kurt Masur, conductor)
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 2 (Vasily Petrenko, conductor)


(August 2017)

  • alumni
  • conducting
  • Mallory Thompson
  • Victor Yampolsky