May 2, 2012 at 9:54 AM ET
Six-year-old autistic piano prodigy Ethan Walmark talked to Ann Curry on TODAY Wednesday, or rather he wowed her with a live performance of his now virally-acclaimed rendition of "Piano Man."
After garnering more than 750,000 hits on YouTube in just a few days and drawing the attention of one very famous piano man himself, Billy Joel, Walmark enthusiastically told Curry he learned to play the piano, "Because I liked it! I like it so much!"
Walmark’s mother, Allison, and father, Michael, appeared with their son on the show, along with their young daughter and Tom Crowley, Ethan’s Behavioral Music Therapist, who accompanied him on the guitar. Michael and Allison first bought Ethan a piano when he was 12-months-old, and were surprised to almost immediately find him performing children’s songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle” and “Mary Had A Little Lamb” after a few takes.
Not merely technically-gifted, the boy’s creative ingenuity equally matches his methodical skills, as his flair and vocal melody give color to his talent on the keys. Joel even issued a statement saying, "I think I like his intro to 'Piano Man' better than mine. And this kid plays with a lot more energy than me. Maybe he could teach me a few things."
Curry asked Allison if she could explain where Ethan’s talent came from.
"I wish we could,” she replied. "I come from a musical family, but what he has, it’s a gift. You’re born with it; you can’t learn it. It’s in his soul."
According to his mother, Ethan learns songs from Elton John to Coldplay in a matter of days, and can do every Beatles song, his personal favorites being "Let It Be" and "Imagine." While Alison is not entirely sure how much autism plays a role in his unique abilities, the family is actively working to bring attention to the cause, currently fundraising for the charity, "Walk Now For Autism Speaks."
"He’s not just special needs, he’s special,” added Michael.
Donations for Walk Now For Autism Speaks can be made here.
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