Texas teen with cystic fibrosis gets his wish to play tuba with the Boston Pops

Ryan McAvoy
Ryan McAvoy –Courtesy of Kathleen McAvoy

Fifteen-year-old Ryan McAvoy’s long-awaited wish granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation will come true Friday evening when he takes the stage to perform in the Boston Pops holiday concert.

Ryan, a tuba player since sixth grade, is a Massachusetts native who now lives in Aledo, Texas. It didn’t take long for Ryan, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at birth, to figure out what he wanted to do with his one wish.

“He surprised everybody in the room—the doctors, the nurses—when he was like, ‘I know, I want to play with the Boston Pops,’” his mother, Kathleen McAvoy, said in an interview.

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Even though Ryan moved to Texas when he was 5 years old, he said Massachusetts has always been special because a lot of his family still lives here. The family still visits the Cape during the summertime, and they watch the Pops July Fourth concert on television, too.

“Since I live in Texas, my family has never really gotten to see me play,” he said. “And I thought this could be a cool opportunity to do it.”

Ryan was originally scheduled to perform with the Pops on July 4, but he fell and fractured his back just days before his trip to Boston, his mom said. He’s spent the summer and fall recovering from surgery, working his way up to being able to perform again.

On Thursday, Ryan had a private rehearsal with Mike Roylance, the principal tuba player for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. His wish was granted through Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“It was awesome. I just felt like I learned a lot,” Ryan said.

Roylance said they spent an hour working on skills and practicing for Friday’s performance. The teen stayed focused on the music throughout the session, despite the presence of lots of family and cameras, according to Roylance.

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“He’s a real sharp, young musician,” Roylance said. “You can tell a great musician by how quickly they make adjustments to playing with you without anything needing to be said. So he’s going to be great.”

Roylance said the teen’s presence in the Holiday Concert will be the highlight of the season “by far.”

“It definitely has given all of us something to look forward to in a big way,” he said. “The brass section has known about it for a while, and the whole orchestra is getting wind of it now. And everybody’s really excited to meet this guy and encourage him on.”

Four children have performed with the Pops through Make-A-Wish since 1995, according to a spokesman for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

The concert begins at 4 p.m. at Symphony Hall.

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