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“See the ‘Ability’ in Disability”: An Interview With Daniel Trush of Daniel’s Music Foundation 

“See the ‘Ability’ in Disability”: An Interview With Daniel Trush of Daniel’s Music Foundation 

Daniel’s Music Foundation is a non-profit organization, founded in 2006, to empower individuals with developmental and physical disabilities through music. At the age of 12, the man and inspiration behind the foundation, Daniel Trush, experienced a ruptured brain aneurysm that resulted in a coma. Music played a critical role in Daniel’s recovery – whether that be by playing records to stay connected to reality, playing piano to regain motor skills, or just listening to tunes to uplift his spirits. 

As a result of Daniel’s deep connection to music, Daniel and his family began Daniel’s Music Foundation to offer community, lessons, events, and even an Award Show, to people with disabilities. 

In honor of Disability Pride Month this July, we spoke with “Dan the Man behind the Foundation.” Daniel discussed how music plays an important role in his life, the common misconceptions about individuals with disabilities, and the milestone moments of Daniel’s Music Foundation. 

Daniel's Music Foundation

What are three words your closest friends or family would use to describe Daniel Trush? 

Grateful, kind, and funny. 

How did music support your recovery and how does music continue to support you to this day? 

Music was very beneficial to me during my recovery from my brain aneurysm and made me feel happy (and it still does to this day!). I sometimes struggle with short-term memory loss, but not with music, somehow it just sticks and I remember all of the words! Since my injury, music has become an important way for me to express myself more than words alone. 

In 2006, you and your family founded the Daniel’s Music Foundation. What are a few proud milestone moments during these 16 years? 

There are so many and it is hard to pick just a few, but the 3 that stand out are:

  • In 2011, when we were honored by the NY Yankees for Yankees HOPE Week. We had the chance to perform on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theater and then sing the National Anthem at Yankee Stadium that night which was pretty incredible.
  • In 2013, when we opened our music center in East Harlem so that we could serve more deserving people. It really brought us to another level!
  • In 2020, when we hosted the First Annual Danny Awards – our global award show that recognizes the musical talents of individuals with disabilities. I had the chance to share the stage with so many talented musicians from across the country and around the globe. It is something I’ll never forget!

The third annual Danny Awards are opening their submissions in August. What are characteristics the judges might look for when selecting honorees? 

It depends on the category. For song composition, judges focus on things like the overall concept, lyrics, and arrangement. For Joyful Expression of a Cover Song, it’s more about stage presence and performance. Regardless of the category, we always encourage our judges to follow their emotional response to the performance. 

“A lot of people assume that people with disabilities can’t excel and have a meaningful life, which is so wrong!”

In addition to providing music education and community, DMF also spreads the message of disability awareness. What are some common misconceptions you find people have about people with disabilities? 

Mostly, I think it’s about placing limits. A lot of people just assume that people with disabilities can’t excel and have a meaningful life, which is so wrong! Before my injury, I was encouraged by everyone in my life that I could be anything I wanted to be. After my injury, all of those yes’s turned into no’s. No, you will never walk again. No, you will never talk again. No, you won’t ever have a meaningful life. That is why we do our Disability Awareness Program. If just one person thinks differently after they participate, then it’s all worth it.

If you could remove or re-phrase certain vocabulary, or common phrases said to those with disabilities, what would they be?

It would be great if people stopped labeling people by their disability and instead “Just Called Everyone By Their Name.”  We would like that a lot more and if they could see the ability in each individual, that would be cool – just remove the “dis” in the word “disability.”

Tell us about your new song “50 Million Reasons Why.” 

It captures some of the challenges that we face and some things that people can do to think differently about disability. This song is dedicated to the 50+ million individuals with disabilities living in this country and 1+ billion individuals in the world. Even though the actual number is 61 Million in the US, 50 million just sounded better in the song :) 

If you could master any instrument, what would it be? 

I really enjoy playing the keyboard and singing, so if I could master those, that would be awesome!

Daniel, you are a wordsmith and have some of the best one-liners. Plus, the walls of the DMF music center are filled with inspirational quotes. Can you share a quote that resonates with you? 

A quote that still inspires me is one that I adopted during my recovery: “Mile by mile, it’s a trial; Yard by yard, man it’s hard; Inch by inch, it’s a cinch!” That means you just need to keep trying and celebrate every small victory!

Is there anything you’d like to say or share?  

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about me, Daniel’s Music Foundation, and our focus on disability awareness. By doing so you are helping more people see the “ability” in disability!

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