He Shoots, He Scores, He Plays Sax
Roger Cox (B.A., '04), a former power forward for the Gator basketball team, sums up his career as a tenor sax player with a sports analogy. "I'm not at the top of my game yet," he says, "but I know I'm moving up."
Just a year after graduating with a degree in music history, Cox has regular gigs in Northern California clubs ranging from Harlow's in Sacramento to the Chicken Coop in Sonoma. He can also be heard on "Omit the Harsh," the second CD released by the band Bucho.
Cox, who attended SFSU on both music and basketball scholarships, discovered his love of music at an early age. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, he began piano lessons at 5 and took up the sax just a few years later. By the time Cox transferred to SFSU from Miami Dade Community College, he had already made his debut at the Monterey Jazz Festival and served four years in the U.S. Navy as a member of its marching, ceremonial and big bands, and jazz quartet.
Studying under SFSU Artist-in-Residence Branford Marsalis was a humbling experience for Cox. "The first time I played for [Branford] he ripped me in front of a room full of people," Cox says, adding that the feedback only helped him become a better player. "As far as I'm concerned, Branford is the best tenor sax player alive today."
Cox sticks to a practice regimen of three to five hours a day and spends most of his time on the road. The life of a professional musician isn't always easy but he's certain he made the right move. "At one time I was on track for dental school," Cox says. "I just couldn't go through with it. … To succeed, you've really got to work hard, so you should follow something you really, really want."
Cristo Ortega, who recruited and coached Cox on the SFSU basketball court, remembers Cox's dedication to his music. Whenever the team went on the road, Cox brought his sax.
"Roger has the heart, mental capacity and passion to succeed," Ortega says. "He was also the best teammate anyone could ever have. Everybody always knew that Roger had their back."
Today Cox is mainly focused on his career as a musician and looking forward to trying his hand at composing. He still plays basketball in a semipro league. Cox was featured in a recent ad campaign promoting former NCAA players who have pursued careers outside of sports. The tagline: "I left the game. But it'll never leave me."
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