Homeless Man’s Piano Performance Goes Viral Online, Raises $40,000 to Turn His Life Around
A homeless man in Florida became an Internet sensation after a video of him playing the piano on a sidewalk went viral. Donald Gould, 51, has now been given a second chance to turn his life around thanks to fans who created a GoFundMe page for the Sarasota man. His crowdfunding page garnered widespread support, raising $40,000 in eight days from generous donors who learned of Gould’s story.
The financial support will go towards helping Gould get back on his feet after being homeless for six years. His phenomenal musical talent already worked some of its magic by reconnecting him with his long lost son on Thursday. Gould has revealed that he is entering a rehab program, stepping forward to battle his years of substance abuse that started with the death of his wife 17 years ago.
On Thursday, Gould was also offered a full-ride scholarship to Michigan’s Spring Arbor University, where he previously attended to pursue a degree in music. Though he had completed nearly all the requirements for the degree, he fell a few credits short due to his inability to afford the high cost of tuition.
Gould and a few of his close friends gathered in Sarasota earlier this week during a small watch party for Gould’s nationwide debut in a featured story for the TV show “Inside Edition.” Commenting on his transformation, a clean-shaven Gould said:
“The best part of the story was getting out there and playing again. After that makeover and people were looking at me and every time I got done playing they would clap.”
“I’m living the dream right now it looks like.”
As he prepared to enter rehab with his friend and fellow homeless musician Paul Leonardo, Gould reflected on the heartwarming support from the community:
“We’ve got everyone behind us now, all of a sudden, and apparently we’ve made an impact on all the homeless people out there.”
Gould said he hopes to serve as an example and inspiration for homeless people who believe in second chances to turn their lives around. He added that he didn’t expect his music playing to lead to such a turnaround:
“When sit out on the street with a box in front of us, we never asked or begged for money, we just sit out there and played and it just jumped into this.”
After he completes the rehab program, Gould will be able to purchase a car and find a home thanks to the GoFundMe money. Jacqueline Bevan, the woman credited with creating Gould’s crowdfunding page, stated:
“My husband and I are friends with Donald and he is aware of this specific account. All funds will be deposited directly to an account set up for him by a lawyer. We will not be personally accessing these funds.”
Gould was playing one of several pianos placed along the streets of downtown Sarasota as part of an art installation for the city when he caught the attention of one of many passersby. Aurore Henry was so blown away by Gould’s musical talent that she recorded a video of him. The video hit over 2 million views in just two days after she posted it on her Youtube channel on June 30. Henry told ABC News:
“We went outside to chat and we saw him playing and it was so phenomenal that I got my phone out to start recording it.”
Gould explained that his musical career began at a young age when he began playing the clarinet as a child and then went on to play in the U.S. Marine Corps. After he left the Marines, Gould enrolled at Spring Arbor University in Michigan to pursue a career as a music teacher.
“I took music theory and ear training, and I had to learn how to play every instrument from the piccolo down to the tuba.”
After dropping out of college, Gould married, had a child, and took on other jobs to support his family. When his wife passed in 1998, Gould was stricken by grief and depression and turned to drug addiction. He lost custody of his 3-year-old son, who he still thinks about everyday:
“Oh it hurts, there’s not a day that has gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him every single day.”
With a spotlight on him and an opportunity to turn things around, Gould is thankful for his good fortune:
“My music took me around the world before I was 21-years-old…. and now it looks like my music might reunite me with my son. So thank goodness for the music.”
Gould is looking at a potential job opportunity playing at a piano bar called the Surf Shack. He told WWSB that though he never received a degree as a music teacher, he teaches kids every time they sit down at the piano:
“I play the ‘Heart and Soul’ bass, I say ‘just hit the white keys, you can’t screw up’… It doesn’t matter how they play, if they play crappy or good, I always clap for them.’”
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