SARASOTA, Fla. — A civic arts project placed public pianos on the streets of downtown Sarasota, Florida, so passers-by could express themselves. But organizers probably never expected someone as expressive as Donald Gould.
Gould, who is homeless, has been playing music for people on the street, and a video of his startling talent is charming the Internet.
A Facebook video of Gould playing “Come Sail Away” by Styx is about four days old but has been watched more than 4 million times.
The bearded man, who places his Boston Red Sox hat on the piano for tips during a five-song set, never expected that his music would make him a viral sensation.
“It’s overwhelming to me,” he told WFLA, a CNN affiliate. “I can’t believe it. I’m still fighting off tears. It’s unbelievable. I never thought it would come to this.”
The former Marine learned to play clarinet as a child and had aspirations of teaching music. He was forced to drop out of music school when he ran out of money just three semesters before graduation.
Gould then took various jobs and started a family before his wife died in 1998. In the aftermath, he developed a drug problem and lost his son to social services, a memory that still haunts him.
“Every day, it’s painful. There’s not a day that’s gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him.”
His son turned 18 last year, he said. Gould said he hopes his son sees him in the video and reconnects.