Music department hosts concert to help blow cancer away, one note at a time

Ryan Anthony receives treatment
Ryan Anthony receives weekly treatments after a stem cell transplant.

When Ryan Anthony first felt sharp pains in his ribs while blowing into his trumpet, he never imagined he’d be diagnosed with multiple myeloma—a cancer of the cells formed in his bone marrow—and given two to three years to live.

Anthony was just 43, with an extremely rare and incurable disease that tends to afflict the elderly.

Hailed as one of the top trumpeters in the world, Anthony never stopped playing. In fact, the day after his diagnosis, he performed the “Star-Spangled Banner” with the Dallas Symphony to open the annual NFL Thanksgiving Day game in front of 100,000-plus spectators in Dallas and tens of millions watching on television.

After undergoing a stem-cell transplant, Anthony has been in remission for three years and continues to receive maintenance treatments.

Even now, Anthony—a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM)—continues to play trumpet and raise money for cancer research. On May 20, he returns to Severance Hall (where he first soloed with the Cleveland Orchestra at just 17 years old) to perform a concert dubbed “CancerBlows.” The concert is hosted by the Case Western Reserve University Department of Music. Tickets are available online.

Ryan Anthony performs the National Anthem at NFL Thanksgiving Day game
A day after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Anthony plays the national anthem with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to open the annual NFL Thanksgiving Day game.

“When you look at a piece of music, it’s black and white: There’s nothing there other than notes and rhythms, and it’s up to the performer to find the soul of the music,” said Gary Ciepluch, director of bands and associate professor at Case Western Reserve University, and a teacher of Anthony’s.

“Ryan finds the spirit of music better than anyone I’ve ever heard, and he has a radiant personality on stage that’s second to none,” continued Ciepluch, who helped organize the concert and recently was awarded the Outstanding Music Educator award by the Ohio Music Education Association.

CancerBlows comes at the end of a week that will see Anthony working and playing with local high school musicians, including the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony (CYWS).

“Students will have a whole new idea of what it means to be musicians at the highest level,” said Ciepluch, who founded and directs CYWS. “This concert will be a life-changing experience. They’ll never be on stage with someone like Ryan again.”

For his part, Anthony skipped his own high school graduation to solo at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.—after receiving a Presidential Scholar medallion from President Ronald Reagan at the White House.

“All the teachers were after him,” said Ciepluch. “He’s like the LeBron James of trumpet.”

Ryan Anthony and Michael Sachs,
Ryan Anthony and Michael Sachs, principal trumpet and coronet in the Cleveland Orchestra.

The opportunity to study with Bernard Adelstein, former principal trumpeter in the Cleveland Orchestra, helped CIM land Anthony and he continued with David Zauder, former second trumpet, and Michael Sachs, current principal.

“Ryan was the first student I heard in 1988 my first day on the job, a Monday morning,” said Ciepluch, who teaches both CWRU and CIM students. “I literally said, ‘I am in the wrong place.’ He was a sophomore. I never heard anyone play any instrument at that level in my whole life.’”

Since graduating, Anthony performed for several years with the Canadian Brass and remains the principal trumpet in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

The concert will serve as the world premiere of a work, “Renaissance of Wonder,” and local premiere of “Song of Hope” by composer Peter Meechan, based on the last three years of Anthony’s life with cancer

“It will communicate the struggles and triumphs in life that only music can fully convey,” said Ciepluch. “It’s going to be a love fest for Ryan. At the end of the concert, we should really provide tissues.”

Concert details

CancerBlows logo“CancerBlows: Ryan Anthony and Friends” is Friday, May 20, at Severance Hall. Tickets are $25-$75, with a free after party.

Proceeds will benefit The Ryan Anthony Foundation, which formed for the first CancerBlows concert, which featured trumpeters Doc Severinsen, Arturo Sandoval and 20 other notable brass players.

The concert is presented by the Department of Music of Case Western Reserve.