AFTER HOURS: A sensational evening in his home town

Given his first musical instrument, a French horn, by the Boys and Girls Club of Middle Georgia through a grant from the Otis Redding Foundation, to study at Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music, Roderick Cox earned his master’s degree in music from Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, with a concentration in conducting.

However, the support from the local foundation, named for one of the stars in Macon’s musical firmament, did not stop with the French horn. Cox later studied in Oxford, England, and in the Czech Republic with financial support from the Redding family’s foundation. In turn, Cox has served as a counselor for the Otis Music Camp for three summer sessions in recent years.

Cox, who was guest conductor for the Aug. 29 opening concert of the Macon Symphony Orchestra’s season, never fails to mention the importance of music in educating children. He grew up with music, listening to his mother sing in her church choir in Macon and attending concerts at the Grand Opera House.

A self professed ingenue when it comes to pop culture, he enjoys listening to jazz, but finds the exploration of the humanity of composers from the past so fascinating, he may never have time to understand the music of today’s generation.

Watching his rapport with the MSO, and the emotions evoked by the selections for “Passion and Pathos,” Cox was transported by the paeans of joy and romance from Mendelssohn; the poignancy of the conflict in Tchaikovsky’s life; and the extravagant, sometimes frustrating, ambitions of Beethoven.


There are parallels between Cox’s life and those of the composers featured on the MSO program. All of them were musical child prodigies whose talents were encouraged by family and patrons; they rose to prominence in young adulthood and Mendelssohn became as well known as a conductor as a composer.

Having had the privilege to watch the rehearsals for the opening concert, it was fascinating to see Cox stop and sing several bars to better emphasize sound and cadence. Appointed assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra in April, Cox’s virtuosity is now being recognized internationally, an accomplishment not lost on his ardent supporters in Macon.

On the Friday prior to the opening of a season that would have delighted her, Minnie Yetter Phillips, one of the long time patrons of the MSO and an active board member when she was in her 90s, died at age 102. During her tenure on the board, Phillips often entertained guest artists of the MSO in her home.


Since its grand opening in May, the Tubman African American Museum and its staff has had time to work out the wrinkles of the auspicious move from the old location on Walnut Street to the architectural gem that occupies an entire block of Cherry Street Plaza. Last Sunday, the first official event, the International Taste of Soul, took over the main floor and the mezzanine of the rotunda to introduce exotic and domestic flavors for “Around the Rotunda in 80 Dishes.”

Chef G. Garvin, star of television’s “Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin” and “Road Trip with G. Garvin,” was guest host for the afternoon of tasting, dancing and viewing the museum’s vast art collection.

Local restaurants and celebrity chefs prepared dishes native to Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South America while a few cooks cleared the palate with down home turnip greens and corn bread.

Carl Tims, assistant vice-president at Geico, and son, Camden, served up grilled chicken, sausage and baked beans seasoned with turkey, a yummy dish accompanied by the white muscadine wine from the LL&L Winery and Farms in Roberta. Fort Valley State University’s booth had the perfect finish for the afternoon’s rich indulgence -- peach ice cream made from goat’s milk.


Karen and Ken Hicks, instructors with Khicks Contemporary Ballroom Dancing, opened the entertainment with a smooth, urbane swing followed by Isbel and Azmi Kabbani performing a folk dance from her home, the Seville region of Spain, with “flamenco flair,” according to Paula East who, years ago, introduced Azmi to the finer points of ballroom dance.

East also brought another couple from her classes, Laura Thomason and Daniel Boudreault, who demonstrated the Cuban cha-cha and the tango, a passionate dance familiar on the streets of Brazil where it originated. Hayiya Dance Theatre presented the most energetic routine of the afternoon, traditional African dance with acrobatics worthy of the Olympics!

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or