Daniel Trush was 12 years old when a brain aneurysm changed life as he knew it. He spent the next two years in a wheelchair, and had to relearn how to walk and talk. Before the aneurysm, Trush played guitar and trumpet, and one thing that brought him a lot of joy during recovery was playing the keyboard.
As the family struggled to find meaning in their lives, Daniel’s father, Ken, tried involving Daniel in different activities. “When Daniel enrolled as a nonmatriculated music student at Hunter College, we knew we had found his life’s passion,” explains Ken. “His professors kept encouraging him.”
That led Ken to look into New York City music programs for people with disabilities. “We only found music therapy, and I said, ‘there has to be something more’,” he explains. After all, they didn’t need another therapy.
“I had so many therapies—five therapies a day,” says Daniel. “We wanted to make a place where people could go and just express themselves and have fun.” So, in 2005, the family—Daniel, Ken, Daniel’s mom, Nancy, and his younger brother, Michael—huddled together and decided to offer just one class and see what would happen.
Today, Daniel’s Music Foundation (DMF) has 12 part-time teachers and other staff, plus Daniel and his family who volunteer thousands of hours every year. Each has a distinct role. “Daniel is the musician, and I have more of a business and financial background, Nancy is a teacher, and Michael is going for his doctorate in child psychology,” explains Ken.
“When you accept someone, and you allow them to express themselves as they are, there’s a sense of accomplishment, confidence, and building of self-esteem,” says Ken. “And so we realized that it was therapeutic without trying to be.”
The foundation helps more than 250 physically or developmentally disabled “members” by offering recreational music making, introductory, and technique classes. “We accept members from ages three to 100, but we don’t have anybody who is 100, yet,” adds Daniel. “We use a ‘smile-o-meter’ to judge our success.”
Among those smiles are “emerging verbal” members, who end up singing solos, and one visually impaired member, who has become a teacher herself. Currently renting space, the foundation is raising money to have its own home where it will be able to offer classes six days a week.
This article is from our May-June 2012 issue. Click to order!