Clutching an exquisite Selmer Paris baritone saxophone, Anna Copley beamed from the stage of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, and the packed house burst into applause.
When she showed up for Saturday night’s Spokane Symphony SuperPops performance, Anna had no idea her very special wish was about to be granted.
The 14-year-old has chronic kidney disease. When asked what she most wanted by the people at Make-A-Wish, she didn’t ask for a trip to Disneyland, she didn’t want a pony – what she wanted more than anything was a new baritone saxophone.
She comes from a musical family. Her mother taught music and her father and three older brothers play everything from tuba to trumpet. “The sax that I’ve been playing is broken and would cost, like, $500 to fix,” she said.
Anna thought her invitation to Saturday’s symphony performance was because her wish, an unusual one, was taking longer than is customary to grant.
But before conductor Morihiko Nakahara raised his baton, Anna was asked to join Spokane Symphony Society director Brenda Nienhouse on stage. Leslie Woodfill from Make-A-Wish joined her, as did Rich Wetzel, a representative for Conn-Selmer, a manufacturer and distributor of musical instruments.
“Tonight’s the night your wish will be granted,” Nienhouse told the teen.
She gasped in disbelief as the beautiful silver-plate, engraved sax was handed to her. She’s a petite 4 foot 10 inches, and the sax is almost as tall as she is. Made in Paris, the instrument came with a neck strap and wheeled case.
As Anna’s smile lit up the stage, Nienhouse said, “That’s the power of music. That’s the power of a wish.”
Later, Anna, a freshman at Lewis and Clark High School got a closer look at her dream saxophone. “It’s beautiful!” she said, as her parents and brothers looked on. “I can’t believe it’s mine!”
Then she laughed. “Hopefully, all the buttons will work on this one.”
Playing the instrument will bring much needed joy as she prepares for a kidney transplant in December. As an infant, Anna came down with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. “We almost lost her,” said her father, John Copley.
Her kidneys were severely damaged by the disease, and when she was in fourth grade she was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease.
Immediately, her oldest brother, Andrew, now 22, said, “If she needs a kidney, I’m going to give her one of mine.”
It turns out, he’s a perfect match and in December they will travel to Seattle for the transplant surgery.
For now, Anna endures a vigorous regimen of medication and dialysis. Despite frequent absences from school, she said, “I try my best to not have really bad grades.”
She enjoys playing the baritone sax in jazz band and hanging out with her friends.
When asked how often she planned to play her new sax, Anna beamed. “Every day – I’m going to play it every day!”