Sara Rogers was passionate about jazz. She sang. She wrote songs. She performed concerts all around Buffalo, performing covers and her own songs. She also shared her love of music with children through music therapy.
A little before 9 p.m. Friday, she was riding her bicycle along South Park Avenue near the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino when a westbound Chrysler sedan rammed her, Buffalo police said.
The Chrysler driver also rammed two other cyclists, a 27-year-old Getzville woman and a 32-year-old woman, near South Park and Columbia Street. The Chrysler then struck a parked vehicle, which struck another parked vehicle, before eventually coming to a stop nearby, police said.
Ms Rogers was taken to Buffalo General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was 29 years old. The other two cyclists were taken to Erie County Medical Center.
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Police said the driver may have had a medical emergency before the crashes.
Born in 1993, Ms. Rogers grew up in Buffalo with a passion for music. She participated in the band, jazz ensemble and choir at Williamsville East High School, where she graduated in 2011. While still a student, she composed pieces, including one for the choir of Williamsville East, according to former Williamsville East group manager Stephen Shewan.
“When she started, I don’t know if she knew how much she loved music, but by the end of her second year, she had a real passion,” Shewan said.
Ms. Rogers’ passion led her to study Music Therapy, Psychology and Jazz Studies at Nazareth College in Rochester, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in 2015. She was recognized in 2015 by the college for Music Therapy Award and the Raymond Shiner. Jazz Prize.
After returning to Buffalo, she began providing music therapy services, specializing in people with autism spectrum disorders, aphasia, Alzheimer’s disease, and post-stroke symptoms.
She was a faculty member at Villa Maria College, where she taught music psychology, expressive arts therapy, and performance psychology.
Ms. Rogers has also worked with various organizations, such as Our Lady of Victory Human Services, Buffalo Community Music School, Liberty POST and Buffalo Niagara Music Therapy Services.
At OLV Human Services, she worked with children and adolescents with disabilities, as well as behavioral and mental health issues. Ms. Rogers has taught her clients songwriting, choir and music lessons. She has also invited clients to participate in performances and showcases such as a Christmas concert she oversaw in 2020.
The group sessions led by Ms. Rogers were popular among clients for her ability to “elevate their self-esteem” and “always be authentic”, according to Sonia Polak of OLV Human Services.
“Sara was always trying to improve our music therapy services,” Polak said. “She got instruments and computers for our customers, and was there for what they wanted and needed.”
The sudden passing of Ms Rogers has left the local music, therapy and education communities in mourning.
“She was everything we need in this world, so when we heard it was Sara, it was like, ‘No, not Sara,'” Shewan said. “She was wonderful…even came down to Tops to provide music therapy services to those affected.”
On Wednesday afternoon, GObike Buffalo plans to hold a vigil in his honor where the crash occurred.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our neighbor Sara Rogers and deeply concerned for the health of the other two women who were stricken separately that night,” a GObike spokesperson said.
Tributes are being prepared by local music groups. JazzBuffalo, another local nonprofit, plans to honor Ms. Rogers on July 28 during Jazz in Chandlerville. On August 26, the Peace Garden Stage at the Northwest Jazz Festival in Lewiston will be renamed the Sara Rogers Peace Garden Stage. Both events had scheduled Ms. Rogers’ band Girl Crush+ to perform on those dates.
“Sara truly embodied the next generation of musicians and artists who are helping to revitalize Buffalo. I admired her independent spirit, and she was a born leader. … So we really want to use them as a way to honor her,” said Tony Zambito, founder and executive director of JazzBuffalo.
Ms. Rogers is survived by her longtime partner, Nelson Rivera; his mother, Lisa Rogers; and his sister, Leah Rogers. A prayer service will be held at Lombardo’s Funeral Home (Synder Chapel), 4614 Main St., at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 25.