Sara Rogers was passionate about jazz. She sang. She wrote songs. She played gigs all around Buffalo, performing covers and her own songs. She also shared her love of music with children through music therapy.
Friday, a little before 9 pm, she was riding a bike along South Park Avenue near the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino when a Chrysler sedan that was traveling westbound hit her, according to Buffalo police.
The driver of the Chrysler also hit two other bicyclists, a 27-year-old Getzville woman and a 32-year-old woman, near South Park and Columbia Street. The Chrysler then hit a parked vehicle, causing that vehicle to hit another parked vehicle, before it finally stopped nearby, according to police.
Ms. Rogers was taken to Buffalo General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. She was 29. The two other bicyclists were taken to Erie County Medical Center.
Police said the driver may have experienced a medical emergency before the crashes.
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Born in 1993, Ms. Rogers grew up in Buffalo with a passion for music. She participated in the band, jazz ensemble and choral at Williamsville East High School, where she graduated in 2011. While still a student, she composed pieces, including one for the Williamsville East choral, according to former Williamsville East band director Stephen Shewan.
“When she first began, I do not know if she knew how much she loved music, but by the end of her sophomore year, she had a true passion,” Shewan said.
Ms. Rogers’ passion led her to study music therapy, psychology and jazz studies at Nazareth College in Rochester, where she received a Bachelor of Music degree in 2015. She was recognized in 2015 by the College for the Music Therapy Award and the Raymond Shiner Jazz Award .
After moving back to Buffalo, she began providing music therapy services, specializing in people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, aphasia, Alzheimer’s disease and post-stroke symptoms.
She was a faculty member at Villa Maria College, where she taught psychology of music, expressive arts therapy and performance psychology.
Ms. Rogers also worked with various organizations, such as Our Lady of Victory Human Services, the Community Music School of Buffalo, Liberty POST and Buffalo Niagara Music Therapy Services.
At OLV Human Services, she worked with children and teenagers with disabilities, as well as behavioral and mental health issues. Ms. Rogers taught clients in songwriting, choir and music classes. She also invited clients to participate in performances and showcases such as a Christmas concert she oversaw in 2020.
Group sessions hosted by Ms. Rogers were popular with clients for their ability to “raise their self-esteem” and “always be genuine,” according to Sonia Polak of OLV Human Services.
“Sara was always trying to improve our music therapy services,” Polak said. “She would get instruments and computers for our clients, and was there for what they wanted and needed.”
Ms. Rogers’ sudden passing has left the local music, therapy and education communities in mourning.
“She was everything we needed in this world, so when we heard it was Sara, it was like, ‘No, not Sara,'” Shewan said. “She was wonderful. She even went down to Tops to offer music therapy services to those affected.”
Wednesday afternoon, GObike Buffalo plans to hold a vigil in her honor where the crash happened.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our neighbor Sara Rogers, and deeply concerned for the health of the other two women struck separately that night,” a spokesperson for GObike said.
Tributes are in the works by local music groups. JazzBuffalo, another local nonprofit organization, plans to honor Ms. Rogers on July 28 during Jazz at Chandlerville. On Aug. 26, the Peace Garden Stage at the Northwest Jazz Festival in Lewiston will be renamed the Sara Rogers Peace Garden Stage. Both events had Ms. Rogers’ band Girl Crush + scheduled to perform on those dates.
“Sara really embodied the next generation of musicians and artists that are helping to revitalize Buffalo. I admired her indie spirit, and she was a natural born leader. … So, we really want to use those 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; her mother, Lisa Rogers; and her sister, Leah Rogers. A prayer service will be held at Lombardo Funeral Home (Synder Chapel), 4614 Main St., at 7 pm Saturday, June 25.