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Breaking Ground 101 - My Path Back to Career after Traumatic Brain Injury

By Drew Gilmer

Hello, my name is Drew Gilmer. My legal name is William Andrews Gilmer, but I’ve always used the name Drew. I am 49 years old and have lived in Middle Tennessee for most of my life.

The majority of my work career was spent at BMI, or Broadcast Music Incorporated. I truly enjoyed my time with BMI. I temporarily moved to New York City to work in the NY office. I lived in New York for nine years and then returned to Nashville in 2012.

 I had only been back for a few weeks when I got in a bad car accident. Although I survived, this incident drastically changed my life. I developed “brain trauma” from the accident. It doesn’t really affect me, but it slowed my processing speed. Thus, I was unable to handle the large number of phone calls received at BMI.

Eventually, I left BMI to pursue a new career. I was hesitant, because I had been with BMI for more than 20 years. Unfortunately, I could not keep a job there with my slow processing speed. It was an uneasy feeling, but I really had no other options.

The first job I obtained was at Publix grocery store. I was familiar with grocery stores from a past job bagging items, so I worked in customer service. I quickly learned that Publix doesn’t have a cleaning service. Instead, all the cleaning is performed by the employees, especially in the customer service department. I could handle all my job duties, but the cleaning needs frustrated me.

I ended up leaving Publix and got a job at the Downtown YMCA. It was interesting working for the YMCA, because I used to go there with my father. I really enjoyed working for the YMCA, but my brain issue was causing me to be periodically late, and I eventually was fired.

I knew a woman who works for New Visions (a vocational services agency), and she was helping me to locate another job. She mentioned a “farm” for me to explore. I thought about it and decided to check it out. It’s called “Cul2vate” and is located in the Crieve Hall area, close to Overton High School.

We visited the site, and I was very impressed. It was a six-month program, and I decided it was a great opportunity. I don’t proclaim to be a farmer, but I enjoyed growing supplies for people. I was finally feeling a purpose in my work. It’s very gratifying to help people in this manner.

One aspect I truly respected about Cul2vate was that it was faith-based. We had meetings in the morning and discussed lessons from the Bible. This gave me a strong feeling of pride and desire to work harder. I’m still friends with the owners and plan to volunteer in the near future.

I was finally feeling positive about my work career and decided to take a few weeks off before a new job hunt. Most of my experience came from BMI, which is a Performing Rights Organization or PRO. Every country in the world has one PRO. In the U.S., however, there are three. The main two are BMI and ASCAP. I was done with BMI, but I had a desire to work at ASCAP.

I eventually got an opportunity to interview with someone at ASCAP. I was extremely excited because this was the one place I had related experience. I was motivated and completely happy at my interview. Fortunately, I was familiar with all the language from my BMI career.

I have really enjoyed my days at ASCAP. It’s essentially the same type of business as BMI, so everything is familiar. On top of that, I no longer answer phones, so I’m absolutely satisfied.

There is a photo of Drew with a somewhat serious face, posing in front of a framed concert poster that says “ASCAP” on it
Author Drew Gilmer poses at the ASCAP offices