Name: Dr. Ishbah Cox
Profession: Director of Bands, Music Educator, Musician, and Arranger
One Word That Describes You: Tenacious
What is your “Extraordinary” impact?
As an arranger for Hal Leonard Corporation, I realize that thousands of people around the globe see my name on marching and pep band songs and listen to audio recordings of my arrangements. I will never meet many of them. Since joining the Hal Leonard team, I have received many comments on YouTube and direct emails from young people who aspire to become music educators and arrangers. It is “extraordinary” and humbling for me when students, in particular students of color, reach out to me to ask questions about this business. I am energized to continue to make an impact as an arranger, conductor, and music educator who will mentor a future generation of scholars.
What does being one of the BEMM 100 Men of Distinction mean to you?
It is a tremendous honor to be recognized with so many powerful and successful men of valor. I am also thankful for the platform that Black Enterprise has created to present black men in a positive light on a large public platform. Thank you, Black Enterprise, for sharing our stories.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, black men represent less than 2% of all K-12 teachers in the U.S. My existence as a black male teacher supports black male achievement. I offer exposure to those who have never been taught by or engaged with a black male authority figure. As an educator, I present myself as a role model who operates with a spirit of excellence and is competent, professional, and passionate about my profession and my students.
What are some examples of how you turned struggle into success?
I grew up in a poor, rural, county school in South Central Alabama. Although my school system lacked educational resources, my community displayed an abundance of love and care for its students. Unfortunately, by my high school graduation, I was not as prepared as I needed to be for my undergraduate experience at Auburn University. My first year of college would have been a disaster if I had not learned how to put my pride aside and ask for help, particularly from others who did not look like me. As a result, I have been empowered by countless advocates and mentors who motivated me to pay it forward with my mentoring and teaching efforts as well.
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
It is unrealistic to believe that someone will agree with all of my ideas and vice versa. What I value is mutual respect of differences. It takes time and effort to communicate effectively, but it is possible to engage in civil conversations that result in stronger personal and professional relationships.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
I am collaborating with my wife, Dr. Monica F. Cox, and her company STEMinent, to create materials and deliver products that empower individuals who need advice navigating unchartered territories. I have a passion for empowering all students, but particularly students who are first-generation college students. We are working to expand her Prepared to Be A Pioneer© brand to not only empower new professors in the academy but help students navigate the daunting process of success in college and in life.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Pastor Julius Stephens in Indianapolis reminded me of the need to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath” (James 1:19). We are people who hurt, and we are people who hurt each other. My wife always reminds me that hurt people hurt people. Nevertheless, I remember that I need to forgive my brothers and sisters as much as I need them to forgive me. These teachings translate to my professional life and my interactions with students, parents, and staff. My prayer is that love reigns free from me and that I operate in wisdom daily.
What is some advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
Canton Jones, an Atlanta music artist and pastor, wrote a song entitled “I Won’t Stop.” He passionately sang, “(I won’t stop) if they take my song off the radio, (I won’t stop) if I gotta’ push records in the snow, (I won’t stop) cause this music is more than a dream (I won’t stop) more than houses, cars, and wonderful things.”
I played and sang this song for the 230-mile commute that I traveled seven years while working full time at Purdue University as a professor and pursuing my doctoral degree part time. In rain, sleet, and Indiana snow, I never stopped my pursuit of my degree. My message to others is to be the change agent you are called to be without stopping until you see what you are called to do come to life.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I sandwich my preparation before and after meetings or any other business interactions with prayer and meditation. After I hear what I need to hear from God, I often converse with my wife about my ideas, since she keeps things real with me. I then research, prepare, prepare some more, and envision how I desire my meetings to be. I prepare myself for the best and the worst prior to the meeting, knowing that I have done my work in faith.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
I unwind by leaving home at home. My best vacation was the time my wife and I forgot to put international plans on our cell phones. We made calls to our families letting them know where we were and to call if there were emergencies. We turned our “out-of-office” notifications on and didn’t check our smartphones for days. We enjoyed each other during the entire trip, took time to converse, and meditated. I recommend that people not wait for vacations to unplug.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
South Africa. I want to hear the sounds, eat the food, see the sites, and breathe the African air. I will travel there one day soon and will disconnect from the outside world.
Anything else you’d like to say?
I am grateful, honored, and humbled to have been chosen as one of the 2017 Black Enterprise Modern Men of Distinction. I want to thank the many advocates who have cheered for me over the years. I praise God for a loving wife of 16 years, hard-working parents (both sets), loving siblings, and amazing teachers and mentors. It is my honor to serve people so that they will have the power to serve others as well. Thanks again, Black Enterprise!
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the first-ever Black Men XCEL Summit, Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.