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In the rarified world of classical music, the road to success is a daunting one. Especially for young conductors. CONDUCTING LIFE 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 courage it takes to succeed in an elusive profession with limited opportunities.
“I felt like I had all this music inside…but I could not express it through an instrument. So that’s when I turned to conducting as this avenue of expression.” —Roderick Cox
Cox’s path to the podium is an unlikely one. Born into a gospel choir home, this Georgia native showed musical promise before the age of three. In high school, Cox’s musicianship took a leap forward, thanks to a foresighted gift from Zelma Redding, Otis Redding’s widow. But it wasn’t until he entered Columbus State University Schwob School of Music that the largely self-taught musician began his formal classical training in earnest.
Shot over seven years, Diane Moore’s intimate portrait captures the highs and lows of an award-winning conductor and his quest to succeed in a discipline that has traditionally overlooked artists like Cox.
CONDUCTING LIFE celebrates how one gifted musician, despite formidable odds, channels his love of music to achieve mastery in the highly competitive field of orchestral conducting.
This documentary short delivers a call-to-action in support of the Roderick Cox Music Initiative, which awards scholarships to aspiring young classical musicians of color at the Walker/West Music Academy and MacPhail Center for Music, both located in the Twin Cities area. Roderick’s story is part of the larger conversation about increasing opportunities, diversity, and equity for musicians of color in classical music.
Image by Susie Knoll.
For more information about Roderick, please visit: www.roderickcox.com
Winner of the 2018 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award by the U.S. Solti Foundation, Berlin-based American conductor, Roderick Cox, has been praised as a conductor who is “paving the way” (NBC News) and recognized as a “trailblazer . . . a conductor who will be amongst the vanguard” (Minnesota StarTribune).
Recent highlights include his debuts with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Dresdner Philharmonie, Philharmonia Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Cleveland Orchestra (Blossom Music Festival), and Dallas Symphony Orchestra; as well as returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, and Aspen Music Festival Chamber Orchestra.
With a passion for education, diversity and inclusion in the arts, Roderick started the Roderick Cox Music Initiative (RCMI) in 2018 — a project that awards scholarships to young musicians of color from underrepresented communities, allowing them to pay for instruments, music lessons, and summer camps. Roderick's initiative is featured in CONDUCTING LIFE.
Born in Macon, Georgia, Roderick attended the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University, and then later attended Northwestern University, graduating with a master’s degree in 2011. He was awarded the Robert J. Harth Conducting Prize from the Aspen Music Festival in 2013 and 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. In 2016, Roderick was appointed as Associate Conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, under Osmo Vänskä, for three seasons, having previously served as assistant conductor for a year.
Directed by Diane Moore
Executive Produced by Yvonne Cheek, Maurice Holloman, Diane Moore, Erin Sax
Produced by Diane Moore, Kimberly Pellnat
Edited by Kimberly Pellnat
Cinematography by Edgar Boyles, Cully Gallagher, Ron Halpern, Jonathan Kloberdanz, Stephanie Shadden
Composed by Coupe Studios Music & Sound Design
Production Company: Elk Mountain Productions
Diane Moore, Director/Executive Producer/Producer
Diane Moore is a Colorado-based freelance filmmaker and photographer who has worked in the visual arts field for over 15 years. In 2013, she met orchestral conductor Roderick Cox and spent the next seven years following him on his musical journey to locations in the U.S. and Europe. The result is her new documentary, CONDUCTING LIFE. Diane co-produced STORY SWAP, a documentary that premiered at the Aspen Ideas Festival and subsequently played several film festivals. She is a Board member of the newly formed Frontline Film School, which offers a platform for individuals from global conflict regions to share their stories to impact positive social change.
Yvonne Cheek, Ph.D., Executive Producer
Yvonne Cheek, Ph.D., is one of the co-founders of the Roderick Cox Music Initiative. She is a board member of the Minnesota Orchestra and the Minnesota Women’s Economic Round Table. She is vice president and trustee with the Sundance Family Foundation and an adviser to the Brown Venture Group. An organization development consultant and onboarding coach, Yvonne has led her firm, Millennium Consulting Group, for the past two decades. She resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Maurice Holloman, Executive Producer
One of the Roderick Cox Music Initiative’s co-founders, Maurice Holloman serves as an advisor to the organization. He is currently President of and Principal Consultant for the Holloman Consulting Group, a management consultant enterprise, as well as the Co-Founder of Achievement Growth Partners, a venture capital investment group. Maurice is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Erin Sax, Executive Producer
A director and executive producer of feature films, documentaries, commercials, branded content, and unscripted television series, Erin Sax specializes in portraying the nuanced complexities of maverick outsiders, delving into their stories, and connecting them to a wider public. From international corporations to bank robbers and fishmongers, Erin’s collaborators have run the gamut including Stella Artois, Budweiser, Lionsgate, the Smithsonian, the Nicaraguan Tourist Board, as well as A&E, the BBC, and MTV.
Kimberly Pellnat, Editor/Producer
Kimberly Pellnat is a passionate editor and producer who champions character-driven, socially conscious stories. She edited the documentary GENERATION STARTUP, was a Contributing Editor on NOT GOING QUIETLY and THIS MIGHT HURT, and a Consulting Editor on SWEETHEART DEAL. Kimberly’s work has aired on Netflix, A&E, NatGeo, MTV, Food Network, Nickelodeon, and more. She also produced and edited hundreds of videos for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election.
Edgar Boyles, Cinematographer
Based in Aspen, Colorado, Edgar Boyles is an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer who has traveled the globe, shooting documentaries set in the remote Himalayas, as well as the art and music worlds of Los Angeles and New York City.
Cully Gallagher, Cinematographer
Cully Gallagher is a Minneapolis-based documentary producer, director, and videographer. His work includes documentaries on global health, development, and cross-cultural stories. In 2012 he founded Flywheel Media Productions to amplify the work of educational and performing arts organizations.
Ron Halpern, Cinematographer
Ron Halpern has worked on numerous feature-length music documentaries including FUNKYTOWN for which he was the Director of Photography. He filmed and edited LEGENDS OF SKA, an award-winning documentary which screened around the world including sold-out shows at the British Film Institute (London), the Grammy Theater (Los Angeles), and Film at Lincoln Center (New York). Ron resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jonathan Kloberdanz, Cinematographer
As a cameraman and editor, Jonathan Kloberdanz has contributed to hundreds of films over the past 20 years. His work focuses primarily on the energy industry, climate change, humanitarianism, and the arts. Most recently, Jonathan was the Co-Producer and Director of Photography for DREAMS AT SEA, a documentary feature on the plight of Syrian refugees displaced by the war.
Stephanie Shadden, Cinematographer
Stephanie Shadden is a Georgia-based videographer, editor, and director with more than 18 years in film and video production, including projects for the Travel Channel and Adult Swim, among others. Her short films and music videos have played the festival circuit. ARMED WITH KNOWLEDGE, an award-winning PSA about gun violence, is Stephanie’s most recent project.
Music Composed by: Coupe Studios Music & Sound Design
Coupe Studios is an independent, artist-run audio team creating original music, sound design, and sonic branding for film, advertising, and interactive media.
Production Company: Elk Mountain Productions LLC
Diane Moore is the Owner/Executive of Elk Mountain Productions located in Aspen, Colorado. Diane’s creative work is driven by a passion for documenting people, landscapes, and places, utilizing film and photography to inspire change through community engagement. As the director, producer, and executive producer of CONDUCTING LIFE, Diane assembled the creative team and assisted with the film funding, taking Roderick Cox’s story from conceptualization to finished film. CONDUCTING LIFE was produced under the Elk Mountain Productions banner.
The Roderick Cox Music Initiative
The Roderick Cox Music Initiative (RCMI) began in 2018 as a program to nurture the next generation of musicians and conductors (ages 12 - 18) through music scholarships to underserved youth of color in the Twin Cities. Scholarships are given to promising students who aspire to a future in classical music. Funds from the RCMI are designated for summer camps, instrument repairs and purchases, advanced training programs, private lessons, and mentorship by Roderick Cox and professional musicians in the area. The goal of the RCMI is to help make the pathway for young musicians of color a little easier by alleviating the financial burden; and providing the necessary networking and training to be a successful musician.
The RCMI awarded $55,000 in music scholarships in 2019, 2020, and 2021, partnering with the Walker/West Music Academy and MacPhail Center for Music.
Please consider a donation to the Roderick Cox Music Initiative.
Tax-deductible contributions can be made through FilmNorth, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization:
For further information on the Roderick Cox Music Initiative, please email Desralynn Cole: Desralynn@gmail.com
Learn about RCMI Educational Partners:
Walker/West Music Academy
MacPhail Center for Music
With gratitude to all the donors who made this documentary and music scholarship program possible:
Major Donors: Fullerton Family Foundation and the Marilyn & Glen Nelson Family Foundation.
We would love to hear from you.
Filmmaker Diane Moore: email@example.com