The Boston Pops brought a special guest on stage at Symphony Hall Friday evening, granting the musical wish of a 15-year-old tuba player from Texas who has cystic fibrosis.
Ryan McAvoy, who was born in Abington, was invited to join the orchestra’s brass section for one of the season’s final Holiday Pops performances, at the request of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Dressed in formal black-and-white concert attire, McAvoy sat on the stage throughout the two-hour concert, and joined the orchestra to perform “Sleigh Ride,” a holiday sing-a-long, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and other Christmas carols.
“This was incredible,” McAvoy said backstage after making his Pops debut. “I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”
When conductor Keith Lockhart introduced McAvoy, the audience cheered, quickly rising for a standing ovation. The Pops were honored that McAvoy’s biggest dream was to perform on their stage, Lockhart said.
“When we heard about Ryan, we were just thrilled,” Lockhart said before the performance. “This is perfect in the holiday season because it’s really what the holidays are all about, caring for each other and the importance of family.”
The Make-A-Wish Foundation flew McAvoy, his parents and two sisters, from their home in Aledo, Texas, to Boston.
The Pops gave McAvoy his own dressing room and a private lesson with Mike Roylance, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s principal tuba player.
“The situation was clearly unique,” Roylance said. “Ryan is a very special person.”
McAvoy has been playing the tuba since sixth grade. He also plays the bass trombone and guitar. Cystic fibrosis, which affects the lung and digestive system, has been a challenging disease, he said.
“I’ve always just been playing [tuba] with it,” he said. “It’s just something that I have had to deal with.”
But playing the tuba has helped him to cope with the disease and its complications, McAvoy said.
“In a way, it’s therapy for me. It’s really taught me how to breathe a lot better,” he said.
And the disease has never limited his musical dreams.
Performing with the Pops, and receiving his first standing ovation at Symphony Hall was “indescribable,” he said.Felicia Gans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.