When you see a beautifully painted piano on the street and a seemingly homeless man sitting at it, you don’t suppose anything good would come out of it. We are used to judging homeless people and treating them badly.
In sunny Sarasota, Florida, on the street a piano is placed for a public art exhibit, painted by the talented Viktorija Bulava, and a homeless man approaches it. At first sight he looks dirty and scruffy, but when he starts playing all jaws drop to the ground.
His name is Donald Gould and in June this year he got filmed by a passer-by playing the piano on the street. The woman who made the clip uploaded it to her personal Facebook profile and later to Youtube and got over one million hits in the following 24 hours. And there is a reason – Donald’s playing is so mesmerizing that you just can’t stop listening to him and after you’ve watched it – you just HAVE to share it with your friends. Many people are passing by, commenting how hard the piece that he is playing is, or just stopping by to gather some money in his hat. Donald is playing with precision and tact – in fact he is so relaxed that he even has the time to get his hair out of his face. This is when you notice his awful state – his hair is outgrown and is falling in clumps around his head, it’s dirty and clustered, uncut and unwashed. His beard is in no better state – dirty and unkept for what seems to be months, almost growing into one with his hair. His clothes are ripped and shabby and his skin shows old injuries and scars. But his music is so beautiful that you are willing to forget the external look in favor of the magic he does.
Luckily this wasn’t the end of Donald’s story, because after his video went viral in under two days, lots and lots of TV shows started asking for him and his story. In a follow-up report by the Inside Edition, it’s revealed that he is a former marine. The Inside Edition actually takes the street musician and gives him a general make-over. You’d be surprised what a pair of new clothes and a good cut can do. After taking him shopping and styling him up, it’s time for Donald’s first haircut and shave in 18 months. He certainly “isn’t used to all this attention” the marine admits as the hairstylist fixes his look, shaves him clean and really finishes up his look. By the end of the “session” he is unrecognizable; it’s like a whole different man standing in front of you. Donald is very humble about it all, congratulating the hairstylist for her “terrific job”.
It is far from over for him though, since this whole operation was to make him presentable to the public he would be playing for this night. A local restaurant “Michael’s on east” have kindly agreed to let him play for a paying audience for the first time in his life, alongside a guitarist, and he admits that he may not have had much confidence before, but now he is “walking in the room and feeling like a pro”. After another beautiful performance, Donald actually confesses that he wants to get in touch with his son, who has grown without him – they haven’t met for 15 years, because of Donald’s problems and now that he is cleaned up and starting a rehab, he hopes his son will get in touch with him. Check out Donald’s unbelievable transformation from caveman to virtuoso:
Soon enough, both of Donald’s videos went viral. He was well-recognized. And from site to site, his story reached Michigan, where a family of three watched it together and realized that this is the father of their adopted son. Donny, the son of the skid-row musician father, was adopted when he was 5, by a family who preferred their privacy. They have told him from the beginning that he is adopted, but never before has he seen his father in such light. He searched a bit and when the family found out that Donald was going through rehab and playing and working for his money, they decided that he really deserved a second chance. And a very big one, that is. Inside Edition tracked down the son as he was trying to get in touch with his biological father via FaceTime.
They met online, using the app, and Donald was happy to see that his son was not resentful; he was no longer ashamed of him. He is promising to keep working on himself, so that Donny will agree to meet face to face. It is a strange feeling for both of them – Donny having lost his father at such young age and Donald going through rehab in order to get his son back, but it is all worth it in the name of family.
In this heartwarming story it is easy to say that music brings families back together, changes people and gives them hope and second chance, especially since we are following Donald’s story closely and are proud to say that he and a fellow musician Paul Leonard have formed a duo and perform for the rights of the homeless. Donald has even performed at the NFL, while he is still going through rehab – change doesn’t happen over a day, but he is getting there and that’s all that matters.