Roderick Cox

Roderick Cox from the film “Conducting Life.” 

The Marine Film Society will be screening "Conducting Life," a documentary by freelance filmmaker Diane Moore. The music-filled event is the final installment of the 2021- 2022 Marine Documentary Series. 

According to press for the film, “The film was shot over a period of seven years and follows the remarkable journey of Roderick Cox as he tirelessly pursues his dream — to secure a top position with a major orchestra. Poignant and revealing, this is a story about the passion, sacrifice, and the courage it takes to succeed in an elusive profession with limited opportunities.”

Moore met Roderick in 2013 and spent the next several years following him on his musical journey to locations across the U.S. and Europe. The result is her film “Conducting Life.” The film features the highs and lows of this award winning conductor and his determination to succeed in a discipline that traditionally overlooked artists like himself.

“I felt like I had all this music inside…but I could not express it through an instrument. So that is when I turned to conducting as this avenue of expression,” says Cox in a statement the film’s website

Before and after the film, there will be live music from Grant West. 

West is co-founder of Walker West Music Academy in St. Paul. West Music Academy opened 34 years ago and is thought to be the oldest community music school in the nation founded by African American musicians. The academy teaches instrumentals and vocals to students of all ages. The organization provides affordable, quality music instruction inspired by the African American cultural experience to young people and adults. 

“Most of our teachers our performing musicians,” said West. “We teach through inspiration and in small steps.” 

During the event in Marine, West will be performing music on the piano at Village Hall. “I love myself a good piano,” he said, “I can make it whisper, I can make it hum. That night I will be playing a mix of jazz, show tunes and original pieces.”

There will also be a Q/A with West and Earl Ross. Ross is chair of string department at Walker West Music Academy. 

“Earl works directly with our young people at the academy who are accessing and changing their lives through music,” said West.

During the Q/A Ross will talk about collaborating with Roderick Cox and promoting classical music to youth.

Established in 2014, the Marine Documentary Series was created by Gayle Knutson and Paul Creager. According to their website, “The Marine Film Society seeks to inspire and support Minnesota and regional documentary filmmaking communities by screening recently released, noteworthy nonfiction films.”

“The documentary had all the ingredients we look for when selecting films,” said Creager. “We are committed to featuring stories about change and untold narratives with Minnesota connections and we also focus on showcasing a female filmmakers,” 

“Roderick’s story is about expanding horizons,” he said.

Born in Macon, Georgia, Roderick Cox attended the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University. In 2011 he graduated from Northwestern University with a master’s degree. In 2013 he was awarded the Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival. Additionally, Cox has held fellowships with the Chicago Sinfonietta as part of their Project Inclusion program and the Chautauqua Music Festival, where he was a David Effron Conducting Fellow.

By 2016, he was appointed Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä for three seasons.

In 2018 he started the Roderick Cox Music Initiative (RCMI). 

RCMI is a project that awards scholarships to young musicians of color from underrepresented communities, allowing them to pay for instruments, music lessons and summer camps. The RCMI is featured in the film “Conducting Life.” Through the Roderick Cox Initiative, students will have the opportunity to attend violin classes at Walker West Music Academy.

“I’m really excited to hear West play the piano at Village Hall,” said Creager. “This is the first time that live music will be played inside to accompany a film.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “Gayle won’t be with us in person that night, she is on a bike tour in Europe.” (See picture on page 6 of Gayle and her Husband on a bike tour in Europe)


The event will be held at the Village Hall Thursday, June 2, at 7 p.m. 

For more information visit 

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