Band director, musician paralyzed after accident takes the stage at fundraiser in his honor

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CHICAGO — A local musician who was paralyzed in an accident, returned to the stage for a fundraiser in his honor Monday evening at Northeastern Illinois University.

Ralph Wilder is a musician, music teacher and band leader. On May 6, while he was sitting down for practice in a room right around the corner from the concert hall, a huge projection screen fell from the ceiling and pinned him to the floor.

“And I saw pools of blood and I realized they were coming from me,” he said. “And then I don’t remember much of anything after that.”

He was paralyzed from the chest down and had learn how to play his clarinet with half his former lung capacity.

“You can take his physical abilities away from him. You can’t take the maestro that he is away from him,” Jeff Wilder, his son, said.

On Monday, Wilder took the stage, bursting with pride, at a fundraiser in his honor, accompanied by his grandson and his daughter.

“When we all get out of bed in the morning and we might have our aches and pains, our daily stresses. I think he put things into perspective of really what you should be grateful for,” Debby Wilder, his daughter, said.

They see him as their inspiration. But Wilder said he’s the lucky one, because he can still play. He said music saved his life.

“Obviously, sometimes the reality of what I used to do and can’t do anymore raises its ugly head, but at the same time, I’m trying to do the best I can,” he said.

It was a night of exception music, and some of the finest artists in the city, including members of the Lyric Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, came to support one of their own. Wayne Mesmer of the Chicago Cubs was also in attendance to support Wilder.

“It is almost overwhelming to realize that this evening of incredible players has been put together on my behalf. It’s almost unbelievable,” Wilder said.

Wilder motto, is, “Do the best you can with what you have, and don’t worry about what you don’t.”

To donate money to the Wilder family fundraiser, visit their GoFundMe page.


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