Homeless Piano Prodigy Gets College Scholarship, Reconnects with Son After 15 Years
A homeless veteran in Sarasota, Florida, has been given a new start – and the chance to reconnect with his son – all because of his prodigious piano playing.
After a video of 51-year-old Donald Gould playing Styx’s “Come Sail Away” on a sidewalk piano (part of a public art project) gained more than 9 million YouTube views, offers to help started pouring in.
In the less than two weeks since the video was posted, he’s been given temporary housing, awarded a full scholarship to finish his degree at Spring Arbor University, and a GoFundMe page has raised $40,000 to help him “get back on track to his true potential.”
“It’s overwhelming to me,” Gould told Florida’s WFLA. “I can’t believe it. I’m still fighting off tears. It’s unbelievable. I never thought it would come to this. I’m a clarinet player.”
Gould told WWSB that he played clarinet in the U.S. Marine Corps band and later studied music education with the hopes of becoming 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,” Gould said. “I can write parts like a handbook.”
Three semesters short of graduation, his studies were cut short when he could no longer pay his tuition. He took a series of jobs, started a family and then succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction.
Things truly fell apart when his 3-year-old son Donny was taken away by social services and his wife committed suicide. His son was eventually adopted at age 5 by a family in Michigan.
“There’s not a day that’s gone by since they took him from me that I haven’t thought about him,” he told WFLA.
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