A teenager casually playing beautiful music on a piano at a mall has impressed a bigger audience than he ever imagined thanks to a captivated stranger and social media.
Monntel West, a high school senior at Everett High School in Lansing, Michigan, was waiting for a friend at Lansing Mall on Friday when he sat down at a public piano.
“I thought I might as well practice a little bit,” Monntel told TODAY Parents.
The result is magical, with the 18-year-old filling the mall with the sounds of a “River Flows in You” by Yiruma.
Monntel, who didn’t have any money for piano lessons when he became interested in playing four years ago, is self-taught. His dad bought him an electric keyboard when he noticed his son’s interest.
“I’ve been practicing at home ever since then. As the years passed, I got better and better,” Monntel said.
The video was taken by Sara Hadley, a photographer who lives in DeWitt, Michigan. She happened to be shopping at the mall when she walked out of a store and heard the teen playing.
“When I got over there I was a little surprised to see this young kid with a back pack and headphones on, playing,” Hadley told TODAY Parents.
“I take photos and videos of everything but this I had to have proof of. I know that kids that fit his description tend to get negative publicity and I think that's awful. I knew he needed to get some positive feedback.”
Hadley, who had never met Monntel before that night, walked over to let him know she took a video and asked for permission to share it on Facebook. It took off from there and has been viewed more than 200,000 times.
The mall piano is part of the Keys in the Cities program, which places pianos in public spaces in in Lansing and East Lansing Michigan.
Monntel has now been contacted by producers and people who simply want to offer free music lessons or have him to play at their events. The teen is planning to go to Lansing Community College to learn about music management after he graduates from high school.
For now, he’s excited about all the attention the video is getting.
“I was so amazed, it’s crazy,” he said. “It’s made me feel really good about myself. To see people are interested in my talent — it made me feel really happy.”