On March 4, 2015, members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra participated in a unique and historic benefit concert. The event was called “Cancer Blows” and showcased many of the greatest trumpets players of our time, together making a statement in support of cancer research. The performance sold out, filling the 1,800-seat Meyerson Symphony Center, with an additional 6,000 viewers watching the live stream. In addition, a DVD, CD, and televised special are being made to help the concert and the cause live on.
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal bone marrow cancer. I immediately began therapy and received a stem cell transplant in spring 2013, while the orchestra toured Europe under the direction of Music Director Jaap van Zweden. During treatment, I received supportive calls from trumpet players throughout the country, and I would tell them, “We’ll all play a concert when I’m healthy again and we’ll call it ‘Cancer Blows’.” When my cancer went into remission, my wife Niki, a devoted team of volunteers, and I worked hard to make that light-hearted comment a reality.
With all the people who wanted to participate, it worked out best to spread the event over three days. It would have been a crime to have so many world-class trumpet players together in one city and not give students and professional musicians a chance to experience it. This made the event a community-oriented project that would touch all ages. This is also what cancer does—it doesn’t discriminate against its victims. The events included master classes, a panel discussion, and a separate brass ensemble concert featuring 12 principal players from major symphonies, including the Chicago Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic, as well as brass players from the DSO.
Altogether, 26 trumpet players from coast to coast took part, with the main concert including soloists Doc Severinsen, Arturo Sandoval, Allen Vizzutti, Marvin Stamm, Wycliffe Gordon (trombone), Ronald Romm, Jens Lindemann, Phil Smith, Joe Burgstaller, and others under the batons of Jeff Tyzik (DSO’s Principal Pops Conductor) and Robert Moody. This concert included a wide range of music, from traditional classical repertoire (including movements from Respighi’s Pines of Rome, Torelli’s Sinfonia in C, and the “Intermezzo” from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana) to orchestral pops (including Vizzutti’s “High Class Brass”, Stevens’s “New Carnival of Venice” and DiLorenzo’s “Trumpets on Parade”). The second half included the University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band, adding a jazz element to the evening. To see these musicians all willing to donate their time was incredible. It was a gift of hope not just for me but for all patients and caregivers.
Cancer Blows raised funds through The Ryan Anthony Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, with 100% of the proceeds going to cancer research. There has already been interest in holding concerts in other cities, both in the United States and abroad. Music is the perfect way to wage the fight against cancer—the healing power in music can go beyond any words.
My bi-weekly chemo infusions are keeping my cancer in remission, but this Cancer Blows project was better for my body than any pills and infusions. It healed my heart, mind, and soul, and provided the hope and strength needed to win this fight. The members of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra were a major component in this and I couldn’t be prouder to sit on stage with this group of colleagues as they showed their unity and demonstrated the strong role they play in the city of Dallas. My thanks go to them, and to DSO President/CEO Jonathan Martin, who suggested the use of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and allowed the DSO musicians who took part to perform under the DSO name for this historic event.