Major US orchestra chief is battling cancer

Major US orchestra chief is battling cancer


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2018

We are very sorry to hear that Anne Parsons, president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, has been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer.

She has delivered a full assessment to her colleagues and is staying very positive, though she may need to take some time off for treatment.

Anne is one of the heroes of the American music scene, having turned Detroit around from despair to hope.

We send her all good wishes for a full recovery.

Here’s a statement from the orchestra:

This fall, DSO President and CEO Anne Parsons was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Her doctors at the Henry Ford Health System have done extensive testing and found several options for treatment. As a lifelong non-smoker and an overall healthy and positive individual, Anne has many reasons to feel optimistic, and she plans on working throughout her treatment. As her plan has recently moved to a stage involving a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, she wanted to be fully transparent with her DSO family about potential changes to her schedule. In sharing this news, Anne specified that her two goals are to do everything she can to stabilize her health and to ensure that the DSO continues to thrive and is not adversely affected by her personal circumstances. Together, the DSO and Anne aim to be completely transparent about this matter, and we will provide updates if necessary. As there is currently little change foreseen to the daily operations of the orchestra, this will be our only statement on this personal health news at this time.



  • Bruce says:

    Best wishes to her and hers.

  • I pray she pulls through this as best possible. There are wonderful orchestra managers – and then there is Anne Parsons. She is a jewel of the American orchestra community.

  • Ted says:

    I am a cancer survivor. One thing that I always find irksome is when people use martial or conflict-based metaphors to discuss cancer–“Joe is fighting cancer” or “Fred lost his battle against cancer last week”. I roll my eyes and explain that in real life you don’t fight cancer; you follow your oncologist’s instructions and hope for the best.

    As always, Stone and Parker get this right:

    • Chris says:

      I agree entirely with Ted. My wife of 26 years died in 2016 after having had bowel cancer diagnosed just a year earlier. She never fought/battled cancer – she learned to live with it as best she could and as Ted says, she worked with the medics to deal with it. In fact the morning after the diagnosis, the surgeon said that they would ‘give it their best shot’ when treating and trying to cure it, to which she replied ‘Well, if you give it YOUR best shot so shall we (her and me)’

  • Me! says:

    Metastatic cancer is not curable and the battle is against the cancer, ie the medicines try to keep it at bay but like advancing troops we know who is ultimately going to win (minus a few instances with immunotherapy or isolated metastasis). She can especially if has a treatable mutation live for years and she could succumb to it at any point. Everyone wishes everyone with cancer the best— lung is one of the most fatal and underfunded due to association with smokers- but 15-20% of current lung cancer patients were never smokers and if isolate them out still more fatalities then many other cancers— we need to educate people as to this and that symptoms (eg chronic cough) are often not screened with ct for lung cancer in non smokers (who typically get it at 53 v 70 years old for smokers) resulting in 2/3 diagnosed at stage 4 (incurable and spread) – let’s educate ourselves as media isn’t

    • Ted says:

      You mean, metastatic cancer is not USUALLY curable. It’s not a death sentence either. Among patients who have stage four (metastatic) colon cancer, four percent survive. A fellow chorister in an opera company I often chorus in had stage four colon cancer and now, almost two decades later, is fine.