Q&A with OOHS Band Director Dr. Cox
Dr. Ishbah Cox, director of bands at Olentangy Orange High School, is well known for his ability to create dazzling performances. The OOHS band is a point of pride for the district as a whole.
Recently, Dr. Cox was given an incredible opportunity to work with the other “best damn band in the land,” The Ohio State University Marching Band. They invited him to write all of the music for the band’s OSU vs. Minnesota halftime performance on Oct. 13. Dr. Cox said yes and the performance was nothing short of extraordinary.
We spoke with Dr. Cox to learn more about this experience, why music is his passion and what inspires him to keep creating.
How long have you been a band director? For OOHS?
I've been teaching band and or instrumental music for approximately 16 years. I'm in my third year at Orange.
How did you develop an interest in music?
I grew up around music. My dad sang gospel, my oldest brother was in the marching band, and my brother and I followed his footsteps. I remember many days harmonizing with my dad and brothers. Those were fun and memorable times that I'll never forget.
What led you to this profession?
I was blessed with amazing teachers. I was inspired by their passion for music, passion for teaching, and passion to empower students. I wanted to reciprocate the same things in my students.
How were you selected to write the music for the OSU Marching Band?
I knew some of the staff from my time at Purdue University, so after leaving there they asked if I was still interested in arranging for marching band. The first show that I wrote for the OSU Band was for the Indiana University road game last year. It was a short show, so that was my opportunity to see if what I could do fit what they were looking for in their band. It worked out.
What did that entail?
They contacted me, gave me the titles and time limits. After receiving that, I listen to the original tunes, contemplated key centers, ranges, and decided what would be best to keep, alter, and discard. That's basically my process.
How did you decide what to write? What was your inspiration?
The instrumentation dictates what I specifically write. It's a brass band, so I must write for that instrumentation. I determine what to write for the specific instrument based on the range of the instrument, potential field placement, projection of sound, and of course, what actually is happening in the original, versus what can be done with that instrumentation. The original is my inspiration. I desire to have the band sound as much like the radio version as I possibly can, including the original key if possible. The drum parts were written by the percussion instructor, Mark Reynolds.
How did you feel when the band was playing your music?
I was honored, excited, grateful, and humbled. I'm that way with anyone who plays my music, including my students.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by many: My wife, my son/first child (who will be born in about nine days), my parents (both sets) my brothers (who got me into listening to music at a deeper level), my teachers, colleagues, and friends. My inspiration is like a family affair. There are many who inspire me.
What are your future aspirations?
I want to continue to do what my teachers did for me—inspire, empower, and enlighten.
What lesson did you learn from this experience?
I will remember to write exactly what I desire to hear from the OSU Band. They can play just about whatever is written on paper. This band is equipped with an amazing staff and outstanding musicians.