On October 23, YouTube user Roslyn Polard posted a video of a homeless Native man named Ryan playing a piano in downtown Edmonton. She did not give his last name, and the brief description states that "no one taught him to play, he just could."
In the week and a half since the video was posted, it's racked up over three and a half million views. The player, Ryan Arcand, a member of the Alexander First Nation, has been featured by CBC, MSN, APTN, and numerous other online and broadcast media outlets. Arcand's astronomical surge is reminiscent of "golden voice" YouTube find Ted Williams. His personal history, which includes a long struggle with addiction, bears some resemblance to Williams' as well.
This weekend, an APTN reporter found Arcand in downtown Edmonton: "It was around noon and he was drinking a bottle of Listerine concealed in a plastic bag. The tongues of his runners stuck out because the laces were taken by staff at a recent hospital stay." Another effect of the hospital stay: Arcand's shaggy hair and beard were gone.
Arcand is now a celebrity—a broke, homeless celebrity. "I’m scared, but I’m happy. I have to walk through back alleys where people don’t see me," he told APTN. There's plenty of speculation about Arcand's talent and his future—commenters on YouTube and elsewhere feel he ought to play professionally, and that he ought to make a living off his music. But nobody—including Arcand himself—seems to know what happens next. He's still on the street, living the only life he knows.
"Being homeless is just like being free," he told APTN. "You can do whatever you want. You can go wherever you want. It has its advantages, but a lot of disadvantages. It’s not easy."