Editor’s Note: Fifty-six year old Frank Barham is living his dream. Frank has learned that a musician never stops learning and never reaches the pinnacle. Jazz is a never ending journey of study; trying to become better, and learning to share your feelings through the music you play. Part 4 of a 5 part series.
Music was the center of my life, even when I worked other jobs. From time to time, I took lessons from different people and kept playing, but I really didn’t have the time I needed to practice and focus on music the way I wanted. I had to deal with a new and very unfamiliar set of challenges in my life. From the challenges of my new body, the prejudices I found in the workplace to my own personal insecurities, I felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the change in my life. I think that the reason I’m still alive is because of music. I don’t think I would’ve gotten through the early days of my injury without music and the people it brought into my life.
Early after my injury, 1980 through 1985, I met several inspirational musicians in Durham, North Carolina. I met Bus Brown, Frankie Alexander, Brother Yusuf Salim, Scott Sawyer, Eve Cornelius, Ed Paolantonio, Rich Robeson, and Chip Crawford who were very supportive of me. I really had a problem dealing with the prejudice I encountered as a person in a wheelchair back then. These musicians not only helped nurture my love for music, but they made me feel like a normal person at a time when I was struggling with my new self image and how I fit into the world. I felt like they looked past my wheelchair to see the man I was, not the image I was afraid I had become.
At that time, I was not only beginning a new life as a person in a wheelchair, I was also beginning my studies as a musician. Music was not going to be my source of financial support. I struggled, like so many others, to balance what was required to earn a living with spending time practicing. After many years of practicing and saving, I am now pursuing music full time. I feel incredibly fortunate to be at this moment in my life. I’m grateful that I chose to continue living. I’m doing what I love to do every day. Daylight hours are spent practicing and at night I go out to various clubs and sit in with other musicians.
Check out Frank Barham live on the harmonica at Northside Tavern in Atlanta.
Next: What’s Next For Frank Barham
About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com