On February 22, 1986, the Coalition for Disabled Musicians, Inc. (a  self-help non-profit organization) was formed. CDM was designed to:

Introduce disabled musicians to each other who have an understanding of disability-related problems.
1. Give access to an accessible rehearsal and recording studio.
2. Create “tag-team” systems and other adaptive techniques for pain, endurance, and other limitations.
3. Set up studio and stage bands for amateurs and professionals.
4. Hold live performances, produce recordings, and hold music workshops and seminars.
5. Promote public awareness of the disabled community as a great reservoir of talent and ability.


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:

“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


CDM would like to assist and collaborate with disabled musicians nation and world wide in concrete ways. For example, if you have original songs you would like to submit for performance consideration, or would like advice in setting up your own groups, or if you would like to broadcast or distribute our music, please contact us. The purpose of CDM joining the World Wide Web is to forge links that would have been impossible otherwise. We invite and welcome all disabled musicians and supporters around the world to contact us.

To extend our reach and bring disabled musicians together on a local and national level, CDM has developed a guest book where disabled musicians may post their questions and answers for each other.  In addition we have added a newly implemented FAQ’s page where we offer the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.

Through our website CDM is dedicated to assisting physically disabled musicians in their musical endeavors at locations around the nation and in the world.

When available, CDM will provide:

* Information on adaptive equipment

* Referrals for Performances, Teachers and Students

*Referrals to other physically disabled musicians and organizations throughout the country and the world.


E-mail, phone, or write to CDM at:

Coalition for Disabled Musicians, Inc.

P.O. Box 1002M
Bay Shore, New York 11706


Donald Jaeger, the founder of CDM, plays the drums, seated on his own creation of a specially designed drum seat to help alleviate some of the pain and pressure on his spine.  Don played with CDM’s first band, Range of Motion, for 12 years and is currently living in Virginia where he still works actively for the organization.

Tom Ryan, learning disabled with a form of auditory dyslexia, is one of the songwriters and vocalists who also plays the guitar, bass and keyboards. Tom was a finalist in the 1992 Babylon Arts Council song writing contest and has received a citation from Nassau County for his work with the organization. “CDM has enabled Tom to overcome his barriers in communication and to facilitate his growth as a musician and performer. He has been able to fulfill many of his goals and has the opportunity to reach his fullest potential,” said his mother, Pat Ryan.

Bass guitarist, John Rinaldo has muscular dystrophy, who owns and manages his own recording studio. John is one of the many members who have benefited from CDM’s adaptive equipment. Due to his increased muscle weakness, John was unable to hold the heavy bass guitar. Donald designed a guitar stand that would enable John to prop the bass guitar up against his body, supporting its weight and allowing him to concentrate on his playing.

Vocalist and song-writer, Linda Wilson Jaeger lives with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She joined CDM when she was single and later married Donald’s brother, Robert (Bobby) Jaeger, the “all-around guy” who moves equipment, runs the sound system and does anything else that needs to be done. Linda’s doctors are very pleased with her participation in CDM. By singing and performing on a regular basis, she exercises her lungs – something which is very important for someone with a debilitating neuromuscular disorder.

Michael Zielinski has studied drumming with CDM since 1992.  He officially joined CDM in the beginning of 1996, although he had taken lessons from CDM founder Donald Jaeger for several years.  He started making cameo appearances with “Range of Motion” at the age of 16, and is now drumming full time with the band.  In May 1996, Mike received the Suffolk County Youth Achievement Award at Longwood High School for his academic achievements, extracurricular activities, involvement with CDM and for his ability to overcome the obstacles that his disability (Cerebral Palsy) presents.   Mikey’s enthusiasm abounds behind the drum kit.  He serves as an excellent and inspiring role model for youths with disabilities.

Pat Ryan joined CDM with her son Tom in 1987.  She pitched in right away to help the organization gain its nonprofit status and with administrative tasks such as grant writing and orientation of new members.  Till hip arthritis worsened, she also worked with the road crew.  Pat has a long history of volunteerism along with experience in teaching and professional training as an artist.  CDM inspired her to develop computer skills in web design and she currently maintains this web site.  Over the years she took lessons in several instruments but never found a good fit till one of the bands unexpectedly lost a bass player.  With CDM’s encouragement and lots of work and practice, she found her place in music.

John Phillips first began performing in the 1960s as a drummer with the “Johnny Phillips Band” and the “Jet Set.”  More  recently, as a guitarist with the “Fire and Ice” band in the Hudson Valley area and as a regular performer with “The Music Club” at Richmond Street Recordings.  Since 1990 John has studied with “The National Guitar Workshop” in Lakeside, Connecticut, and has attended Irish folk music studies in Dublin and Galway.  He has performed  in Chicago, Colorado, and Wyoming, and has auditioned for “New York Underground.”  John has been playing with CDM’s “Range of Motion” since November 1998.  He currently studies acoustic  blues with  Paul Rishell and teaches guitar and drums.  It takes a lot to slow him down despite his total hip replacement  from an arthritic condition.  when  he’s not playing on stage at a CDM gig, he’s diving in with the rest of the road crew   helping to set up the sound system.

Tony Tramontana began to play the bass in 1963 and joined a band that played dance music.  In the late sixties he had his own band that played at weddings and dinner dances.  In 1986 Tony was hurt on the job and could no longer work.   Joining CDM in 1988 he began immediately playing with the CDM Orchestra, playing swing, jazz and pop.  He has taught guitar privately and has a vast knowledge of musical styles.  He is now a fill-in bass player for “Range of   Motion” as well.  Tony volunteers time playing in church musicals, and senior centers.  He also plays professionally with the James Street Players and other community groups.  In recognition of his contributions and musical abilities, Tony was selected by the music department at West Babylon H.S. TRI-M Music Honor Society as a lifetime honorary member.
“Our organization has helped a lot of people get past their limitations. A lot of people who wouldn’t be playing music are playing music today because of us,” said current CDM President, Linda Jaeger. Each of the group 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. They take a unique tag-team approach to their music, since many of them are severely disabled. When one member fatigues another member takes over to cover. Donald, who has studied with Liberty De Vito, Billy Joel’s drummer, shares his technique with his disabled drumming students.

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Coalition for Disabled Musicians