TUPELO • Ryan Anthony is more than a fellow musician to Steven Byess.
Byess, conductor of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and Anthony were fellow students at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He’s followed Anthony’s rise as a trumpet player and regards him as one of the world’s best.
Mostly, Anthony is an inspiration to Byess for his courage to continue performing after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.
“He is a genuinely good man and a outstanding musician, and is well loved and embraced by people all over the globe,” Byess said.
Anthony will make his first solo performance of the year Saturday night in Tupelo when he performs with the NMSO in the “Concerto For Hope” at the Link Centre concert hall.
“We’re really honored to host him in Tupelo,” Byess said. “He’s truly one of the world’s best trumpet players. A great human being.”
Anthony was performing with the Canadian Brass when he became ill during a 2012 concert. He eventually was diagnosed with cancer, spurring him into action to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.
He’s president of the Ryan Anthony Foundation and serves as artistic director of CancerBlows, a collection of brass players worldwide who support the fight against cancer with a focus on blood cancers and multiple myeloma.
Anthony, the principal trumpet with the Dallas Symphony, has scaled back his performing schedule because of recent treatments. He’ll also perform the concerto in March with the Byess-led Portland Columbia Symphony.
“In my conversations with him over the past few weeks, he said he feels better than he’s felt in a very long time,” Byess said.
Three years after his diagnosis, Anthony asked composer James Stephenson to write a concerto that captures the struggles and hope of his fight. The two first met in the mid 1980s during a young artists competition sponsored by Seventeen magazine, which Anthony won. Stephenson completed the concerto in 2016.
Anthony describes the Concerto For Hope as “emotionally powerful, beauty and heartache but ending with hope, fun and full of rejoicing. My recent life: Hearing the news and crying out why and realizing ‘what’s going on?’ Then accepting it and dealing with the reality and possible future. Then surviving and enjoying life.”
Stephenson’s work will be the middle of Saturday’s program. It will open with Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets featuring Anthony and NMSO principal trumpet John Schuesselin. The concert closes with the NMSO performing Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8.
“I thought what a great representation to bookend this program with the Vivaldi concerto, which is happy and upbeat, and the Dvorak, which is also uplifting and happy,” Byess said. “It’s a great showpiece for the orchestra, but it’s also a great representation of what I feel represents Ryan Anthony as a person and also as a consummate musical artist.”
Tickets are $30 for adults and $10 for students. They’re available through the NMSO website and Eventbrite.com.