by Danny LoPriore06/22/11
HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. — Michael Brecker’s musical legacy has become the soundtrack for Susan Brecker’s quest to help save cancer sufferers worldwide.
Brecker, a 15-time Grammy Award winner who lived in Hastings, is recognized as one of the most influential jazz saxophonists and writers of his time. He died in 2007 after a 2 ½ year struggle with leukemia. Brecker’s life’s work brought joy to millions and his battle with cancer has inspired his wife and friends to educate millions about the need for bone marrow donors.
“The film is above all about making people aware of the need for bone marrow donors,” Susan Brecker said. “When we were looking for a match for Michael, I would wonder if the person on line in front of us at the A&P could be a match. People are alive today because we’ve found donors, so Michael’s struggle has so much more meaning.”
During their search for a bone marrow donor match for Michael, the Breckers organized a series of drives around the world, raising awareness and funding and drawing thousands of donors to the pool. Michael did not find a donor, but to date, 50 lives have been saved by donors in the Michael Brecker Donor Pool.
The recently premiered documentary, “More to Live For,” produced by Susan Brecker and James Chippendale and directed by Noah Hutton, is the story of three men battling leukemia — Brecker, Nigerian Olympic hopeful Seun Adebiyi and Chippendale, an entertainment insurance executive. Each man is dealing with cancer and hoping for a vital bone marrow match that might save them. Their unrelated lives become connected in the making of the film, which was produced to bring awareness about bone marrow donation to the masses.
“Raising the funding to screen the film keeps me very busy,” Susan Brecker said. “It’s tough to find funding right now, but we need it badly. Each time the film is shown, people are swabbed and added to the pool. Each person is a potential life saver.”
Hutton, who lives in Irvington, spent many hours in the studio with Brecker, who was working on his last album, “Pilgrimage”, — during the final months of his life. Hutton collaborated with Susan Brecker and Chippendale on the film, which was screened last month in Irvington.
Chippendale, who did find a bone marrow donor, created the Love Hope Strength Foundation (LHSF), which performs concerts across the globe to highlight the need for donors. Adebiyi, who is a Nigerian-America, aspired to compete in the Winter Olympics in the “skeleton” a one-person sled race. He was diagnosed with lymphoma and stem cell leukemia and while he is still searching for a bone marrow donor, Adebiyi has set a goal of signing 10,000 new donors and in that effort ran the first-ever bone marrow drive in his native Nigeria.
Michael Brecker’s album “Time is of the Essence”, released in 1999, is one musician’s prophetic message about the fragility of life and longevity. The album’s cuts, “Half Past Late”, “Arc of the Pendulum” and “Timeline” inspire timely action – as easy as the swabbing of one’s mouth to save a life.
The process of testing and donating bone marrow was once an invasive and uncomfortable procedure. Being tested now consists of medical personnel swabbing inside your mouth. The donation itself is done in a hospital setting, is fairly painless and requires very little recovery time.