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From homeless to record album, Sarasota street pianist 1 year later

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SARASOTA -- Donald Gould's transformation began with a viral video of him,  when he was homeless, playing a piano placed along Main Street.

From sleeping on the street to having his music heard internationally, it's been a complete 180 degree turnaround for Donald Gould and the whirlwind continues.

The man with the magic fingers is now taking his musical talent to the next level. He's recording an album.

To understand the full scope of this accomplishment, you have to go back to June of 2015. This was Donald Gould then – a scruffy homeless man who had been on the streets for years.

Gould, who's a classically trained pianist, sat down at one of the pianos placed on the sidewalk as part of the Arts and Cultural Alliance, Sarasota Keys Piano Project, and began playing.

A passerby recorded him and placed a video on the internet and the rest is history.

"It's kind of surreal," says Gould. "I was this homeless guy on the streets and the next thing you know, I'm in the national spotlight, the world spotlight."

Donald became a Youtube sensation. He was then featured on the TV show "Inside Edition". He says the attention gave him the motivation he needed to turn his life around, and he admitted himself into rehab. Two months into the rehab process, Gould was offered an opportunity to play the national anthem in front of 75,000 people for the San Francisco 49ers season opener.

"While I'm actually up there performing, I'm nervous as a long tail cat. But at the same time I'm working on actually concentrating on playing the national anthem with very few mistakes."

Gould says process was hard because there were many distractions.

"While I'm performing there's the crowd noise and there are fireworks going off, and i got ear buds in my ears but I couldn't hear a thing of what I was playing; so, I'm just hitting the keys on the keyboard and hoping for the best."

And his best was what the crowd got, because that opportunity opened yet another door.

"As the result of playing in San Francisco, this record producer gets in contact of Jacqueline, and the next thing you know i have a recording contract."

Jacqueline Bevan is a life coach. She has been helping Gould maneuver though all the changes, and she says it isn't just Gould's music career that's blossomed.

"Watching him go through everyday things and learning to live all over again and making new friends and doing positive things and just having a normal life, we're so proud of him," Bevan said. "It's amazing."

Gould now has his own place and is continuing the recovery process, which he says is a daily battle, and the reason he regularly attends AA meetings.

But Bevan says during the past year, Gould has also done a lot for others -- including volunteering at the Senior Friendship Center. "It was his way to give back and do something for the community because we know the community lifted him up with the Go Fund Me account."

Gould has had other difficulties as well. In the past year he's struggled with the stress of being homeless to suddenly being a star. He suffered a heart attack and had a stent put in. And his leg was broken when he was hit by a car.

Despite all of that, his work to continue on the right path seems to be paying off. The opportunities keep knocking at his door.

"We've been feature in japan on a Japanese show called 'Toca-do-Ga' for Japanese television," said Bevan. "He's had the pleasure of being on the radio with Ted Williams, the golden voice. We've done a lot of organization events and stuff like that where he's been able to assimilate into the community and help."

Gould says he feels blessed. "I feel lucky and blessed that these opportunities somehow, out of the blue, are coming my way and now it's like when the rubber hits the road -- I just gotta make the right decision."

The record Gould is working on is scheduled to be available for purchase at the end of the year.