UPDATED: Roanoke tribute to jazz legend helps to build bone marrow registry

March 25th update:

The search for potential bone marrow donors in Roanoke was a success.

273 people signed up and provided cheek swabs for the national bone marrow registry during events last week.

The Jefferson Center coordinated the effort, with a donor drive that was linked to the special concert Friday night.  The performance honored jazz great Michael Brecker who died from Leukemia in 2007.


Dylan Locke is the Artistic Director of the Jefferson Center.
Wednesday morning, we found him at the Jefferson College of Health Sciences briefing volunteers on a bone marrow donor drive.
"We're always looking for ways to make the music we bring to Roanoke more meaningful and this project led us to this donor drive," Locke told us in an interview.

A concert Friday night will pay tribute to the life of jazz great Michael Brecker, who died from Leukemia in 2007. The event will also include the screening of the documentary "More to Live For," and more opportunities to sign up for the national bone marrow registry.

Every year thousands of people with blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, need bone marrow transplants, but many are unable to find a match.

Sharon Rapaport hopes to change that. She's a Roanoker and a close friend of Michael Brecker's widow.

"If we get as many people out as we hope to get on the registry," Rapaport told us, "we're going to be able to say that lives were saved because of Roanokers. And I really want to do that for Susan in Michael's memory."

Taking part in a bone marrow donor drive isn't difficult. It involves filling out a simple form, taking a drink of water and swishing it around in your mouth, and then swabbing the inside of your cheek. 

Melanie Morris is a Jefferson College Junior who volunteered to help with the donor drive. "So if one person can take five minutes out of their day to get their cheek swabbed," she said, "then they can save a life." 

The drive Wednesday at Jefferson College of Health Sciences lined up close to one hundred potential donors. More signed up at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine. And the effort continues Friday night at the Branford Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo concert. Jefferson Center is expecting a full house, but Wednesday afternoon tickets were still available.