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Pianist With Kidney Disease Makes Over $60K In Tips After Traveler Shares Video Of Him Playing In The Airport To Instagram

Pianist With Kidney Disease Makes Over $60K In Tips After Traveler Shares Video Of Him Playing In The Airport To Instagram

The internet came together to bless him! 

An Atlanta airport pianist made over $60k in tips after a traveler shared a video of him playing to Instagram, Good Morning America (GMA) reports.

Tonee "Valentine" Carter's loved music ever since he was a child, when his father, also a pianist, took him to a Ray Charles concert. 

"I was done. That was when I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to do what Ray Charles does," Carter recalled.

Over the years, his affinity for music grew, always noticing the beauty in the sounds, sometimes even tearing up at a melody. He went on to gain a degree in music from Tennessee State University and work as a performing musician before landing a gig as a piano player on a cruise ship. Unfortunately, after working the cruise ship circuit for more than a decade, Carter discovered he had kidney disease, causing him to lose his job on the ship.

"There's a physical every time you go on the ship. I took my last physical, and they told me I had kidney issues, so I couldn't work on the ship anymore," Carter said.

Thankfully, that same year he got the call to begin working at the airport. He went out to test it, promising to only play for an hour, and ended up loving it. That was 13 years ago. Now every Monday to Thursday, the 66-year-old plays the piano at a bar in Concourse A at Atlanta's International Airport, while spending his evenings in dialysis for nine hours. Despite his condition, Carter said he's still able to "live a full life."

"It's the little things. When you see somebody come in, sit down, and they're looking crappy, and nobody's talking to each other, and then I just happen to play the right song at the right time, and all of [a] sudden, feet are patting, the hands are tapping the table, and the smiles are coming. It's something unreal," Carter said.

On July 21st, motivational speaker and author, Carlos Whittaker, was headed home to Nashville, Tennessee, when he came across Carter playing his piano.

"My speaking event in Memphis got canceled, so I had to reroute back home, which is why I ended up being in Atlanta for like an hour-and-a-half," recalled Whittaker. 

During that time, he was mesmerized by his playing, noticing Carter giving it his all, even in a room full of people paying very little attention to him. 

"I used to be a musician. I was the opening band for a bunch of bands, and nobody ever paid attention to me. So when I saw that nobody was really listening to him, my heart was like, 'Ah, I get it.' I just wanted to let him know that I was listening to him and that somebody sees him," said Whittaker.

But the more he sat there, the more he was moved, not only by Carter's playing ability but also by his story, the two sparking up a conversation in between songs and sharing more about their lives. That's when Whittaker decided he wanted to bless Carter with the biggest tip he's ever received. With a following of more than 200,000 on Instagram, Whittaker reached out to his "InstaFamilia" to help tip the talented pianist, posting his cash app info and urging them to hurry so he could give him the money before he left to catch his flight. Within 30 minutes, he had raised $10,000 for Carter. 

Whittaker captured the moment he told Carter on film, posting the video to Instagram as a visibly stunned Carter took it all in.





"I didn't believe it. But it was real," Carter told reporters. 

When Whittaker left to catch his flight, he promised that he would keep the info up and urge people to keep donating. He had no idea how his random act of kindness would take off.

"By the time I landed in Nashville, it was at like $25,000, and by the time I talked to him that evening, it was $44,000," Whittaker said.

When it was all said and done, Carter raked in a total of $61,000 in donations due to Whittaker's efforts. 

"I was overwhelmed. I started bawling again," said Carter.

Carter said he has no plans to keep the money despite the noble deed, hoping to get an oil change for his car and use the rest to help others and make donations to the American Kidney Foundation. He is already in talks with his accountant on how to grow the funds even more. 

"That money's not mine. I'm going to be paying it forward... I'm going to be helping people for years to come. God made me a steward of that money, and I ain't letting him down," Carter said. 

As for Whitaker, the two are still in communication, and he said he wishes Carter nothing but the best.

"I'd love to see his talent used for even bigger reasons. He's literally the kindest human," said Whittaker.

Carter said the two are no longer just friends. "We're family now."

Congratulations, Mr. Carter! Thank you for your service, Carlos!

Photo Courtesy of Tonee "Valentine" Carter/GMA