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Back in the Groove: Composing a New Life After a Devastating Injury

Written by Emily Hull

Josh Oxford '07

Just four years ago, the odds were stacked against Josh Oxford ’07.  He was in a car accident so devastating that he had only a 2 percent chance of survival. His skull had separated from his spine, his hip was broken, and his upper arm was shattered. Oxford spent a week in a coma, had multiple surgeries, and suffered from muscle and nerve damage.

As he was recovering, Oxford said he had a lot of time to consider why he had been part of the surviving 2 percent.

“I think it’s because I still have music to make,” he says. “That’s why I’m still here.”

Six months after the accident and only a month after being released from the hospital, the 25-year-old Oxford returned to Ithaca College to receive occupational and speech therapy from IC students.

“It was great to feel like I was helping the students’ education, and a lot of the things they said to me in speech therapy was what I would hear the voice teachers tell their students when I was accompanying lessons,” he said.

Before the Accident

After graduating from IC in 2007, Oxford worked as an accompanist, playing piano for students’ auditions and performances. In a single semester he accompanied students for 60 juried performances, the equivalent of a music student’s final. He also recorded with faculty members in the studio and formed a band called the OXtet.

Oxford maintained many of the friendships he had formed with his professors as an undergraduate student, and after graduation he continued to work closely with a number of them, including Steve Mauk, professor of saxophone, and Gordon Stout, professor of percussion. Oxford had dabbled in composing for the OXtet, and Stout encouraged him to compose more seriously. He even had his percussion ensemble perform some of Oxford’s music.

Video: Josh Oxford plays a selection of Beatles songs on the marimba during his senior recital


After the Accident

Though Oxford had previously focused on performing, several people at Ithaca College helped him transition to a new life as a composer. Because of his injuries, Oxford wasn’t able to do as much as he used to, but his former professors helped him forge a new life path through composition.

“I appreciated their encouragement in making the transition from performer to composer,” he said.

 Rick Faria ’87, a clarinetist, performed one of Oxford’s pieces in 2011. IC professor and jazz trumpeter Frank Campos performed a piece that Oxford had written for him, and saxophonist Mike Titlebaum, percussionist Greg Evans, M.M. ’11, and guitar player Mike Caporizzo ’13 played in the OXtet.

Oxford views composing as an outlet of discovery for him. “I feel there's still a lot of ground that hasn't been covered yet in a wide range of musical topics, and writing music allows me to explore these ideas,” said Oxford.

This past fall he started a master’s degree program in jazz composition at Queens College in New York City, where he received the ASCAP Foundation Louis Armstrong Scholarship.

“I really relish the challenge of being back in an academic setting coupled with the added difficulties of my physical impairments,” he said. “Having spent four years adjusting to my new life, I think adjusting to being a student again will be significantly easier.”




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