Conductor Roderick Cox rose to international prominence in the late 2010s with the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award and a series of appearances with major orchestras around the U.S. and Europe. He has stated the goal of increasing the representation of African Americans in classical music.
Cox was born in Macon, Georgia, in 1988. He was fascinated by the music he heard in his mother's church choir, but the family had no money for music lessons. So he taught himself piano starting at age five, drums at nine, and French horn in high school. He attended Columbus State University in Georgia and then went on to graduate school at Northwestern University, intending to become a band director. While at Northwestern, he discovered a passion for orchestral conducting, and he graduated in 2011 with a master's degree in that program. Cox remains one of the few African Americans in the conducting field, and for several years, he questioned his choice as he met with rejections for orchestral openings. He was accepted for further studies at the Aspen Music Festival & School, where he won the Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize, the Chicago Sinfonietta's Project Inclusion program, and the Chautauqua Music Festival in New York state. He then landed a job as the assistant conductor of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the music director of the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra. From there, he moved to the Minnesota Orchestra as the assistant conductor from 2015 to 2018.
Cox's breakthrough came when he received the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award in 2018. That led to guest conducting engagements with top orchestras around the U.S. and Europe, including the Detroit Symphony, the Johannesburg Symphony in South Africa, and the Philharmonia Orchestra of London. Accepted into the highly competitive Daniele Gatti Masterclass with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, Cox moved to Berlin and has divided his time between Europe and the U.S. In 2019, he made his debut with the Houston Grand Opera, leading performances of Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles.
Cox made his recording debut in 2018, leading the Chineke! Orchestra in performances of Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43, and Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30, with pianist Gerard Aimontche. He is the subject of a documentary film, "Conducting Life."