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Thursday March 8, 2018

Homeless pianist gained fame from viral video


An Edmonton homeless man whose spontaneous piano performance was viewed on the internet by millions of people, has died.

Ryan Arcand, 46, died last weekend in a supportive housing complex where he had been living for a few months, said Jared Tkachuk, an outreach manager at Boyle Street Community Services.

He said Mr. Arcand struggled with a developmental disability, trauma and mental illness and used alcohol, drugs and the piano to cope.

"He was quite proud of his talent and I think he was happy that it got acknowledged because that's so rare for people who are marginalized," Mr. Tkachuk said.

Mr. Arcand had been living on the streets when a woman recorded him playing a battered outdoor piano near city hall in 2014.

Roslyn Polard said she was struck by his beautiful music and others who also stopped to watch the performance had tears in their eyes.

She posted the video on YouTube and it quickly went viral.

The video raised enough money to buy Mr. Arcand a keyboard, although Mr. Tkachuk said he's not sure if Mr. Arcand still had it when he died. Mr. Arcand ended up in and out of housing and different social programs over the years.

"Our journeys don't go in straight lines sometimes," Mr. Tkachuk said.

"Things weren't easy for Ryan and that's how it often went."

But music was always important to Mr. Arcand and before he died, he was still writing his own songs, Mr. Tkachuk added.

Mr. Arcand was from the Alexander First Nation, northwest of Edmonton, and his funeral is to be held there on Saturday.

Associated Graphic

Ryan Arcand

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