A homeless man in Sarasota, Florida is getting a lot of attention thanks to some well-placed public pianos. Donald "Boone" Gould became an internet sensation this week when a video of him playing Styx's "Come Sail Away" on a sidewalk spread like wildfire across social networks.
"I was thinking I could just put my hat on the piano and make a couple dollars and get tips,” Gould told ABC 7. “I didn't expect it to jump out to this."
The video, originally posted to Facebook by Aroar Natasha on Monday (June 29), shows Gould effortlessly working through the tune for a small crowd of onlookers. The song is just one in his repertoire, which also includes Bach's "Toccata" and Billy Joel's "Piano Man." His piano of choice is part of the Sarasota Keys Piano Project, a program that collects donated pianos for outdoor public use.
Gould, 51, plays daily piano concerts for passersby and has been a musician since childhood. He first played clarinet before studying music theory following a stint with the U.S. Marine Corps.
"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 explained. “I can write parts like a handbook."
He also enjoys teaching local children who stop by his 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,” he said. “I'm a nurturer, I'm a teacher."
Gould hasn't always been homeless, either. Following his wife's sudden passing in 1998, Gould -- as he put it -- "lost it" and spiraled into substance abuse. He lost custody of his son and eventually succumbed to homelessness. His experience is one of many reminders that every homeless person has a story, one that's very worth hearing.
Thanks to his newfound viral stardom, things might be looking up for Gould, who hopes to find his 18-year-old son and finish his music theory degree. A GoFundMe page has been set up in his honor.