CDM was recently featured on CNN TV (Cable News Network) and Court TV’s “Legal Cafe” – a video of these interviews is available from our merchandise page.

CDM was also featured on 98.3 WKJY FM and 100 AM in New York.

On May 26, 2007, WFUV Radio 90.7 (Fordham University Public Radio Station) aired a documentary exploring the music of disabled performers on it’s show “Cityscape.”  CDM was featured on this show and we are most grateful for their support and interest.

2011 NEWS!

The COALITION FOR DISABLED MUSICIANS is proud to announce that we were one of 500 finalists in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program.

We were selected from thousands and thousands of applications to participate and compete to win a Wheelchair Accessible Van.  Although we did not win, we are so grateful to all of the people who helped to get the word out.  If you haven’t seen it yet, please check out our PSA or other videos on


Musicians’ Coalition Celebrates 20 Years

ROM Portrait 4-05 copy

The Coalition for Disabled Musicians (CDM), is still going strong after 20 years of performing music.

CDM musicians range in age from their 20’s to their 70’s and have a variety of disabilities.  Throughout the years, CDM has formed several bands. “TLC” is their current pop group, which performs mainly at receptions, cocktail parties and smaller events. “Range of Motion” is CDM’s first and premier performing band featuring original pop and rock and roll music.  CDM’s performances include interesting information about the musicians, with each member telling their own story.

Donald Jaeger founded CDM about five years after sustaining a spinal cord injury.  Each of the group’s members is conscious of each other ‘s limitations, but they emphasize that the public enjoys listening to their music and does not patronize them because of their disabilities.

Through their website, CDM regularly gives out advice online to musicians inquiring about adaptive equipment or techniques.  CDM’s groups perform for community arts programs, local fairs, corporate parties and for disability awareness programs.

Above, members of “Range of Motion” are, seated front, Linda Wilson Jaeger; back left to right, Tom Ryan, Pat Ryan and John Phillips; and Mike Zielinski on the drums.

For information call (631) 586-0366

*** Visit the Able News online at

Article reprinted, with permission, from:

The Music Paper, May-June 1998

“World of Music”


Most of us know the difficulties and tough odds of trying to succeed in the music business. We all know the routine of practice, write, record, perform; packing the van, carrying the gear up two flights of narrow stairs, trying to look thrilled to be playing for a roomful of people who’ve maybe had too much to drink…or an empty room when it’s snowing out and only your band took the hour to drive to the club.

OK, now imagine doing all of that without an arm or leg, or maybe from a wheelchair. We’ve all seen blind musicians such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder or Jose Feliciano, but what about if you’re legally deaf? What if you were physically incapable of even holding the weight of your guitar? What would you do?

Enter the Coalition for Disabled Musicians, Inc. (CDM), a volunteer-run (both disabled and non-disabled), not-for-profit, self-help organization for the physically handicapped that assists the physically challenged in pursuing their musical dreams. The organization was formed in 1986 out of a handful of people who got together for informal weekly jams. It has since evolved into performing groups that gig regularly. Using individual adaptive techniques and equipment, CDM gives physically challenged musicians the opportunity to develop skills, join performing groups and entertain and inspire audiences. Through its efforts, CDM also highlights public awareness of the handicapped as productive and creative members of society.

Unlike most ads for “musician wanted” that you may answer, there are no age or musical style limitations. All musicians are invited. Currently, CDM draws its active local membership from New York’s Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties. But the organization fields telephone calls and correspondence from around the world, largely the result of CNN coming to the Coalition’s Bay Shore, Long Island, rehearsal studio last year. The CNN public-interest story news clip was rerun worldwide numerous times and raised the CDM’s notoriety up a few notches. With its limited staff, CDM makes sure all inquiries some from as far away as Italy and Africa are processed each week. Information, advice and referrals to other disabled players are continuously sent out to fellow musicians in need.

CDM founder Donald Jaeger, who has been playing drums since 1975, sustained a severe spinal cord injury in 1981. For five years he was faced with severe pain, confinement to bed for several hours a day and the resulting depression. When he returned to the drums in 1986, he could only play for short periods. “I realized that I was limited with an endurance and pain problem. I needed to find people to play with me who understood,” he pointed out. Thus, the CDM was born. Don has since designed and invented a number of stands and contraptions to help various CDM members play and perform. He designed a stand that allows a bassist, who could not hold the heaviness of the instrument, to sit behind the bass and play it without bearing its weight. He’s made several ingeniously rigged drumsticks with straps for his students missing limbs or with spastic conditions. He even has a patent on a utility stand for practice pads, known as the KayJae, that was designed to relieve a drummer’s back strain that has since become used even by drummers without disabilities. (OK. No musical jokes about drummers here.)

Over the years, the Coalition has garnered the support of a number of sponsors, both private and corporate. In the area of musical equipment manufacturers, the CDM has been sponsored by Fostex, Korg, Ludwig, Sabian, Vic Firth and Zildjian. This sponsorship helped in the building and equipping of a handicapped-accessible recording and rehearsal studio which helped ease the financial burden of handicapped musicians. The facility has allowed the CDM to develop its “tag-team” system of multiple players/band members for each instrument. As a player reaches his or her limit of performance during a gig due to pain, endurance problems or other limitations, a relief player comes in. With members’ disabilities running the gamut including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, visual and hearing impairments, diabetes, stroke-related weaknesses, spinal cord injuries and others, each musician/member poses an entire new set of problems to solve.

Although the Coalition formed several bands from jazz to pop to rock ‘n’ roll, the premiere performing group of the CDM is called Range of Motion. The band has performed all along the East Coast from New York and New Jersey to all the way down to Baltimore, Maryland, at the Artscape Music Festival. Range of Motion also appears regularly on the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon and will perform at the 1998 Suffolk County Special Olympics on Long Island this month. In addition to CNN, the Coalition has also appeared on Court TV’s Legal Cafe; and numerous radio shows.

Range of Motion’s current seven core members are an inspiring mix of personalities. Vocalist/songwriter/CDM president Linda Jaeger, sister-in-law to founder Donald, suffers from spinal muscular atrophy (a degenerative cousin to muscular dystrophy). She found that singing and performing on a regular basis has turned out to be important physical therapy for someone with a debilitating neuromuscular disorder. Muscular dystrophy patients often die of pneumonia and the regular vocal workouts will help elongate her years. Her doctors are thrilled. The confines of a wheelchair are nothing to. keep Linda back. She uses special ramps designed to adjust to different heights to overcome up to seven steps to a stage. Once on stage, she uses a wireless mic with a special stand attached to her motorized wheelchair.

“When I’m playing music, it’s like a different part of the brain takes over. I feel like I’m able to do anything.” While she soars in the music, she is also quick to show that she keeps a firm grasp on reality. “One of the difficult parts of keeping bands together in the Coalition is the very real fact that many of our members die. A lot of the disabilities our members have greatly shorten their lives. But, with the help of the CDM, we’ve helped hundreds of musicians really enjoy the time they did have left a whole lot more.”

CDM’s jazz band and its CDM Orchestra, made up of mostly older musicians who perform swing and jazz tunes, has proven to be an especially hard ensemble to keep manned.

Guitarist/keyboardist/bassist/trumpeter/vocalist/songwriter Tom Ryan has a learning disability with a form of auditory dyslexia. He was called “retard” by schoolmates when growing up. After years of having his mother battling the school system to allow him to take music lessons, Tom was allowed in with the other students. Where the school system thought he was incapable of taking music lessons, he excelled at it and his IQ rose some 10 points. Tom turned out to have perfect pitch as well. A member of the Coalition for almost a decade, he has since grown into a “teaching” position with newcomers to CDM and is also studying classical guitar with a professor at a nearby college. He has written hundreds of songs and, quite honestly, the ones I heard at a recent Range of Motion rehearsal are as good as many of the better bands gigging in NYC clubs. Ryan, in fact, was a finalist in the 1992 Babylon Arts Council songwriting contest. Linda Jaeger says it’s as if one half of Ryan’s mind is disabled, but the other half is in overdrive the half responsible for his musical abilities. “His songs are beautiful, and if I ask him what key something is in, he knows right away. He can make all the key changes in his head to transpose.”

“CDM gave me my first chance to play with a real band. We perform for many ‘special’ audiences, like at schools and colleges, Ronald McDonald Houses and a lot of hospitals and nursing homes. We also take the time to answer questions from audience members about our disabilities,” says Ryan, who was given a citation from Nassau County, Long Island, for his work with the CDM. “It shows them what is possible if we are given the chance to be treated like everyone else.”

AJ (Alice) Konczynin has been playing bass in Range of Motion for two years. She plays her bass as it rests on a special stand to support its weight to relieve the chronic neck and back pain she suffers from a work-related injury. She takes lessons from both Tom Ryan and fellow CDM Range of Motion bassist Tony Tramontana.

18-year-old Mike Zielinski had been taking drum lessons from Donald Jaeger for several years and started making cameo appearances with Range of Motion at age 16. Mike is now drumming full-time with the band, filling the drum throne vacancy left when CDM’s founder relocated his family to the Carolinas. In May 1996, Mike received the Suffolk County Youth Achievement Award from the county executive for his academic and extracurricular activities, and for overcoming the obstacles that his disability presents. Mike Zielinski has cerebral palsy.

Possibly the band member with the most unusual disability for a musician to have is keyboardist Glen Matheson. Even with the help of two hearing aids, Matheson only has 20-percent hearing ability. In a band situation, he can only hear the lows of the bass and drums, not the vocals, guitars or even the upper register of his own keyboards! He relies on lip reading the vocalists and other visual cues and uses his computer expertise to provide himself with lead sheets of the songs.

The newest member of Range of Motion is Judy Sterling, who has been singing with the band since late last year. Two of the things Judy brings to each rehearsal are a really good memory and her dog Aster, who doesn’t seem to mind the volume. .And yes, Judy is blind. In a short time, she has memorized all of the band’s lyrics and arrangements. On the day of the photo shoot for this story, the band members kid with her, telling her how beautiful the location is. Everyone laughs because it’s really an abandoned firehouse from the 1880s that looks like the roof will cave in at any moment. (At least Aster seems to like it).

The biggest compliment that can be given to Range of Motion is that, if you close your eyes while the band plays, it sounds just like any other group of musicians gigging. They have indeed overcome all odds posed by their various disabilities. The band is the in-your-face arm of the CDM that helps to make its message unavoidable. The Coalition’s members and volunteers, in the meantime, continue their daily work to enlighten the rest of the world that, given the chance, disabilities can be overcome. Today, the CDM is on the phone trying to get a new bandshell being built in its town to have handicapped access. “So far, those behind the project have told us that ‘[the town] didn’t get the soundproofing it wanted either. Everybody has to compromise a little’,” sighs Linda Jaeger. “They’ve equated handicapped access to soundproofing.”

Contact the Coalition for Disabled Musicians, Inc. at PO Box 1002M, Bay Shore, NY 11706; 631586-0366; e-mail CDMNews@; Web

Proceeds from The Music Paper’s and ME/musician exchange’s monthly CD-ROM Dirty Little Secrets series which features indie bands, and more are being donated to the Coalition of Disabled Musicians, Inc.