Alcorn choir to perform for Steckler event

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 19, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The Natchez Festival of Music will present a concert Sunday as a benefit for cancer patient Jennifer Steckler.

The 6 p.m. concert at St. Mary Basilica will feature the Alcorn State University Concert Choir singing contemporary gospel and American spirituals.

David Blackburn, festival director, said the concert will be free but church members will collect donations to go directly to a benefit fund.

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&8220;No one has to give anything,&8221; Blackburn said. &8220;But we hope the concert will raise a lot of money. We know she has very big medical bills.&8221;

Blackburn said the idea for helping Jennifer through the music festival is appropriate because of the years of commitment to the festival board by her father, the late Dr. David Steckler.

&8220;Dr. Steckler probably was the finest board chairman ever. He did so much for the festival and the entire city.&8221;

Alcorn State is paying the choir&8217;s expenses to travel to the concert. &8220;All we&8217;re doing is singing and bringing people together,&8221; Blackburn said. &8220;This is what we do best. And no one can sing this type of music better than the Alcorn Concert Choir.&8221;

Jennifer Steckler was diagnosed with cancer almost a year ago, in October 2005. The acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a fast-growing cancer of the white blood cells.

In July, her brother, Dr. David Steckler, 36, donated stem cells for a transplant. Jennifer has been recovering from that procedure at a hospital in Nashville.

Her sister, Suzanne Steckler, said Jennifer is in a time period during which doctors continue a steroid treatment and anti-rejection drugs in the aftermath of the transplant. The drugs affect her immune system, however.

&8220;She&8217;s in pretty good spirits, but she just wants it to be over,&8221; Suzanne said. &8220;She is ready to come home.&8221;

Blackburn said the choir, with about half the members new this year, will sing in public for the first time at the Sunday concert. He is impressed with the 50-plus group and expects a good show.

Natchez natives include Brandon Mitchell, who will be a soloist; and Samuel Hendricks, president of the choir, who will accompany the group on piano.

&8220;When this choir sings, they pack a wallop,&8221; Blackburn said. &8220;People will enjoy it.&8221;