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Disabled Arkansas man finds joy through love of music | KLRT

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas – Music moves people in many ways, and one man from Little Rock has made it his mission to inspire people with his piano skills.

Darnell Paul, 23, says his music “makes me feel happy and at peace” and he believes it does for others, too.


Once a week he entertains people at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. Darnell can't read music, but he plays by ear.

Every chord and melody Darnell plays is his gift, as he explains that he “didn’t have any lessons or anything, I taught myself.”

This is all quite remarkable considering that this piano player has, among other medical conditions, a mental disability.

I first met Darnell at a cancer fundraiser at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.

Darnell played an electric keyboard, the sound of which echoed through the open-air stadium. I later learned from his adoptive mother, Schelly Paul, that her son was born prematurely and without oxygen and struggles with numerous emotional and physical problems.

As an example of what her son is struggling with, Schelly described a situation that occurred in her neighborhood.

“We had an incident in the community where he was riding his bike in front of me,” she began to explain.

She went on to say that someone from the neighborhood patrol stopped Darnell and asked him a series of questions that he could not answer, including why he was not at school, “and that looks suspicious,” Schelly said.

Darnell and his family hope this story will open people's eyes and make them aware of the challenges that some people with disabilities face every day.

He reminds us all that “while our processing speed may vary, our value does not.”

In the meantime, he will continue to hit the keys every week and hope that people will decipher his message in his tunes.