Homeless Piano Prodigy Gets College Scholarship, Reconnects with Son After 15 Years
"There's not a day that's gone by since they took him from me that I haven't thought about him," Donald Gould said of his son
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.
Gould added that he hoped the video would reach his son and inspire him to reach out. “I’ve always loved him from the day he was born. I’m never going to stop loving him,” he said.
Last week, a segment about Gould on Inside Edition caught the attention of a friend of Donny’s adoptive family.
After seeing the video of Gould and learning that he planned to enter rehab, Donny, now 18, was inspired to reach out and help his birth father get his life back together. “I thought [his music] was very beautiful,” he told Inside Edition. Adding, “I want to just help him clean his act up.”
The father and son reconnected over video chat. “It was very weird for me to see that face for the very first time,” Donny said.
After speaking with his son, Gould entered a rehab facility to seek treatment for his addictions. He remains hopeful that after completing the program, he’ll be able to regain the thing that matters most to him – a relationship with his son.