Tonee “Valentine” Carter, who plays the piano at an American airport, won $60,000 (about 50,000 euros) after a stranger shared a video of him playing.
Tonee “Valentine” Carter, 66, is not famous, but he performs to an international audience almost every day at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in the United States.
Last week, Carlos Whittaker, a motivational speaker, was at the airport to catch a flight home to Tennessee after a lecture was cancelled. And came across the pianist.
“As I walked down the hall, I heard someone playing the piano, and I had to pass by,” Whittaker, 46, told reporters. CNN.
For an hour and a half, Whittaker sat at the piano bar listening to the music that seemed to flow effortlessly from Carter’s fingertips.
The motivational speaker — who is also an author, podcaster, and instagramer — recorded videos of the musician and shared them on his Instagram account, which includes more than 200 thousand followers.
After exchanging a few words with Carter, Whittaker decided to challenge his fans to join the biggest tip the 66-year-old man had ever received. “In 30 minutes, we had raised $10,000,” he said.
In a video shared on that social network, Whittaker filmed the moment he told Carter that a group of people who didn’t know him got together to raise thousands of dollars for themselves.
“I was amazed. I thought he was kidding, could not believe. It just doesn’t happen,” Carter told CNN.
“I didn’t know how to feel. This is the kind of thing I do. I love giving, donating and helping people, but I never expected someone to do it for me”, he explained.
Before Whittaker boarded, he told his followers through Instagram that they could continue to tip Carter through a banking app.
“When I landed in Nashville, it was already $20,000. And when I interviewed him for my podcast that night, it was already $44,000. from there reached 61 thousand dollars“, told the motivational speaker.
the happiest man in the world
When he was six years old, Carter went to a Ray Charles concert with his father – he was also a pianist – and from then on, he knew that “this is what I wanted to do”.
The musician, whose stage name is Valentine, said the song reminds him that “life is good”, regardless of what goes on in the world.
“When I’m playing, i feel like the happiest man in the world“he added.
But Carter has not had an easy life. In 2008, while working as a pianist on a cruise ship, he found that his kidneys were working just 10%—and the diagnosis turned his life upside down.
Now the pianist has to reserve his nights for dialysis treatment.
“I have to do what I have to do to live,” he said, adding, however, that he is happy because there is nothing more serious. “Maybe I don’t have working kidneys, but I get up and go to work every day,” he continued.
“I’m the happiest person I know,” he snapped.
For Carter, who loves working at the airport — “people who go on vacation or on a business trip or who are going to travel with their loved ones are happy (…) and when they are having a sad day, they will pass by me and things are going to get a little better” — he said that Whittaker is an “angel”.
“It was a normal day and this guy comes up and introduces himself and says he wants to interview me for his podcast,” Carter said.
Within hours, thousands of people around the world knew Carter’s name.
“It made me cry for days, not because of the total, but because of the individual donations,” Carter said.