How Musician And Paraplegic Frank Barham Found His Love For Music

Editor’s Note: 56 year-old Frank Barham, of Atlanta, is living his dream. He has a deep understanding of what a musician is. He is passionate about learning and playing great music– a true musician never stops learning. He knows that jazz is a never ending journey of trying to become better and expressing his view of the world through the music he plays. Part 1 of a 5 part series.

You can catch Frank playing in jazz & blues clubs around Atlanta.

You can catch Frank playing in jazz & blues clubs around Atlanta.

I’ve done a variety of things throughout my professional career and decided to become an avid musician. I play the chromatic harmonica. Soon after my injury, I met an inspiring man named Chris Turner. He is a world class musician who specializes in the harmonica. Chris played the chromatic harmonica with class four symphony orchestras and was the world solo diatonic harmonica champion at one point.

I became interested in playing a harmonica to keep life interesting. I knew I wanted to play jazz music, and Chris suggested that I learn. I’ve been playing the harmonica for many years now.

I met Toots Thielmans who is one of the greatest chromatic players in the world, like Stevie Wonder. Basically I learned to play my harmonica by studying with other musicians who played other instruments, particularly pianists. I was constantly attempting to learn how to play the harmonica.

Right now, I’m transitioning from being a teacher and playing music part-time, to becoming a musician full-time. I spend my days practicing the harmonica, and at night, I sit in with jazz musicians in the Atlanta area.

I’ve been fortunate to sit in with great musicians like Jez Graham, James Schneider, Lola Gulley, and Charley Wooton, who plays in a band called Zydefunk as well as playing with the Charley Wooton Project. I also play in the Northside Tavern Jam Sessions in Atlanta on Monday nights.

Frank Barham has had the opportunity to sit in with several talented musicians.

Frank Barham has had the opportunity to sit in with several talented musicians.

Through the years, I’ve had quite a few different jobs. I was a computer programmer and consultant for about 17 years and worked with a variety of companies in that field. I was involved in a Y2 project and HIPA conversions. When I was injured (stay tuned for the story discussing my injury), I worked in sales. I had more than one part-time job to make a living because back then, people in wheelchairs weren’t covered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Finding full-time work was difficult. I was also a radio DJ for a while–this is when I eventually transitioned into IT. I also worked for the Center of Disease Control and with the Bank of America. However, always in the background and somewhat suppressed, was my love for music.

I worked in the information technology (IT) field for many years, and then taught at a private school. I wanted a recession proof job and wanted to positively impact young people. I was going through the process to become certified as a teacher, but after about 3 years, I learned that teaching wasn’t the job for me. I also realized that it wasn’t the job I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Finally, I made the decision to follow my dream of becoming a full-time musician.

Frank Barham has chosen to become a musician full-time and is very happy about this decision.

Frank Barham has chosen to become a musician full-time and is very happy about this decision.

Music is a powerful tool for self healing, dealing with emotions and being able to translate feelings when words are inadequate. I’ve found that music can change my moods, helps me escape from depression and brings joy into my life.

See Frank in action as he plays the chromatic harmonica in the video below:

Next: Musician and Paraplegic Frank Barham’s Life Changing Accident

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

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