Ryan Anthony, Trumpet Prodigy and Former Oberlin Faculty, Dies at 51

July 14, 2020

Erich Burnett

smiling trumpet player
Photo credit: Reve Arts Management

Electrifying performer appeared with major orchestras across America.

“There must be other trumpeters in this world as fine as Ryan Anthony,” Fanfare magazine once proclaimed while his career was still near its infancy. “But you’d never think so while listening to him play.”

Anthony was a child prodigy whose unbridled glee and unfaltering humility remained ever-present throughout a brilliant career that started with a two-year stint as an assistant professor at Oberlin Conservatory.

He emerged as a precocious performer in part by winning the Seventeen magazine/General Motors Concerto Competition at age 16. He went on to earn two degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music before launching his teaching career at Oberlin in 1998. A frequent performer on the conservatory’s faculty series and elsewhere, he was a member of Brass Odyssey, Burning River Brass, and numerous other ensembles.

By summer 2000, Anthony was granted a leave from Oberlin so he could take up touring with the Canadian Brass, with which he performed for three years. In 2004 he joined the Dallas Symphony and rose to its principal position two years later. While performing in Dallas, he also taught at Southern Methodist University and served for a time as chair of its winds, brass, and percussion department.

While holding down his roles in Dallas, Anthony also appeared as principal trumpet with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the symphonies of Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Colorado, and in the sections of the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra, among other renowned orchestras.

Through it all, he was universally hailed for his bold and beautiful sound, as well as his gentle nature.

“What I remember most of Ryan was his ease and love of playing,” recalls former Oberlin trumpet major Kyle Lane ’99, general manager of the Charleston Symphony and a member of the Holy City Brass. “I always tried to get him to play so I could hear how he did things. He was a very natural player, and I remember him smiling whenever he performed.”

In 2012 Anthony began treatment for multiple myeloma, a rare cancer of the blood that led to him enduring painful procedures and countless hospital visits for the next eight years. He continued to teach and perform with the Dallas Symphony whenever his illness permitted; by June 2019, when he revealed he would no longer be able to play, he was named principal trumpet emeritus. That same month, he was honored by the International Trumpet Guild.

As cancer ravaged his body, Anthony’s spirit continued to shine through—most notably through his increasing role in fundraising for cancer research, initially through a foundation that bears his name and soon after with a series of concerts, dubbed “CancerBlows,” that featured performances by orchestra friends and trumpet luminaries such as Arturo Sandoval and Doc Severinsen. Anthony was honored by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation with its Spirit of Hope award in 2016 and its Courage and Commitment award the following year.

He died June 23, 2020, leaving his wife Niki and two children.

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