SARASOTA, Fla. – A video of a homeless man is going viral after he was captured playing the piano.
There are seven pianos on the sidewalks in downtown Sarasota, and many people sit and try their hand at creating a tune.
“It’s an interactive public arts project in downtown Sarasota,” said Jim Shirley, with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. “The whole idea is to give access to people who want to express themselves.”
A passerby captured Donald Gould playing one of those pianos on camera.
Within 24 hours, more than 500,000 people saw the video.
“It is my passion. I just like to make people happy out there when I’m playing. I put my hat out there and sit it on top of the keyboard in hopes of making tips because I’m homeless,” he said.
Unlike his music, Gould’s life has not been so beautiful.
He is a former Marine who has struggled with drug addiction.
“I had a wife pass away on me in ’98, and I had a son, and I was kind of heavy into the pill thing. They took our child away from us, and my wife took a handful of morphine pills and died. She just went to sleep. I couldn’t keep it together and eventually, social services got tired of it and they terminated my parental rights. Everyday 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. He turned 18 last Aug. 24,” Gould told WFLA. “I wish he would come and find me.”
The owners of nearby restaurants say they love to hear Gould play, but worry about his health.
“We are trying to control the amount of tipping that happens, not because we don’t want them to be rewarded, but they take the money and buy booze and whatever they buy, and then they come back an hour later and they can’t even play the piano,” Raffaele Perna said. “That’s the heartbreaking part to it.”
Gould says he is thankful for the attention of so many people, but simply wants his son to see him.
“I’ve always loved him, from the day he was born. I’m never going to stop loving him,” he said.