The Evolution of CDM, Inc.

Donald Jaeger’s lifelong dream was to play the drums, but with a houseful of eight kids packed to the rim and two parents, it just was not possible until some kids got older and left home. Donald, at age 21, then purchased his first set of drums. The drums were his passion.

In 1981 Jaeger, who was working as a tug boat deck hand, fell from one boat deck to another, sustaining severe spinal cord injury. His wife, expecting their second child, had to return to work soon after, leaving Donald to look after the children. For five years he was faced with physical limitations, which kept him confined to bed for several hours a day, and depression. The drums were set aside. He merely existed. But he is the first to admit: “Depression is very contagious. Other people sense it and become depressed. It is very difficult.” He successfully availed himself of therapy to cope.

By 1986, Jaeger returned to the drums, but only for very short sessions. Unable to keep pace with able-bodied musicians, the pain was unbearable at times. However, with the support of his wife Lynn and the rest of his family, he became active and alive again. “I realized that I could play the drums again, but I was limited with an endurance problem because of chronic pain. I needed to find people to play with me who understood this problem,” he said. Thus, the Coalition for Disabled Musicians, Inc. (CDM) was born.

CDM provides excellent therapy for him and other physically disabled musicians. “It is a very good outlet. Most people would be at home if this was not available, doing nothing but existing. I forget everything when I am playing. I even forget my pain for a while. It is very therapeutic,” said Jaeger.

CDM went on to form three bands, the first a rock band called “Range of Motion;” the second an orchestra of older persons, called the “CDM Orchestra,” performing the old standards, jazz and swing; and the third group, a rock and hard rock band called “Rockin’ Chair.” The musicians range in age from their teens to their seventies. As varied as their ages are, so are their disabilities, including Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Visual and Hearing Impairments, Diabetes, Stroke, Spinal Cord Injuries and other.
The Coalition of Disabled Musicians was featured in “Newsday” on the following dates:

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“A Widening Range of Motion” – Sunday, September 27, 1987

“Music That’s Not Disabling” – Wednesday, July 26, 1989

“Group in Tune with Disabled Musicians” – Sunday, May 19, 1996