Homeless Piano Man Ryan Arcand losing hope, living in the shadows of a ‘broken dream’

Ryan Arcand, the Homeless Piano Man and his “broken dream.”

(Ryan Arcand in Edmonton. Photo: Brandi Morin)

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
EDMONTON — He was sitting on a bench at a bus stop near downtown Edmonton waiting to catch a ride to the cathedral where he pan handles every day.

It’s before noon and Ryan Arcand already reeks of booze. He’s been sipping since early morning to maintain the buzz of his addiction.

Dressed in dirty, unmatched clothes and a blue down jacket two sizes too big, wayward eyes of desperation shine out past his disheveled black hair.

“It’s been terrible,” he says.  “Things have not been kosher.”

Just a week ago he got out of jail for a mix of petty crimes that added up enough to give him a warm place to stay and three hot meals a day for the last 6 months.

The worn paper hospital band on his wrist wears like a permanent bracelet.

The hospital is a familiar place that he visits on a regular basis, for various reasons.


Sometimes he fakes being ill to have a warm place to sleep for a night or two, sometimes he’s experiencing genuine mental breakdowns or seeking treatment for bruising and stitches from drunken falls.

It’s been a year and a half since a video of him playing on an outdoor piano, a haunting melody that he wrote went viral. Earning him the nickname “the Homeless Piano Man,” Arcand’s music was heard around the world making him instantly internet famous.

His song, “The Beginning,” inspired millions, many who held high hopes of salvation for the phenomenal talent possessed by a man that seemed to have appeared out of the shadows.

But he had always been in the shadows, before most people just passed him by. He’s spent most of his life on the streets. In fact he’s never really had a place to call home. Raised in foster care, until he ran away at age 13.

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Looking away for a few moments, he says it’s been about a month since he’s played piano. His fingers are “tipsy” lately.

“I’ve been drinking. It’s terrible…I don’t know what to do anymore.”

For a moment his eyes light up and a gummy smile emerges at the prospect of heading to the church to play his song, “The one that made me famous!”

He said he’s always had hope in God and believes God gave him the gift to play music. But lately his hope has been dwindling. He keeps repeating, “I don’t know what to do anymore.”

“It’s (my music) is a broken dream. A dream that could’ve been…There’s no more hope out there for me, to be honest.”

He’s tried all the programs offered by the system, some many times over.

But the cycle of life between jail and the streets is hard to break. It’s one that he’s grown used to. Now at 44 he doesn’t know any other way of living and not sure he could ever make the transition to a “normal” way of living, he said.

But he believes he’s still got a purpose even if he’s living it out on the streets.

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People who have heard his music, which evokes pain and healing “emotion,” he said, are helping him and he’s helping them.

“I believe that people who listen to me… even though it hurts, but in the long run people listening to the music – they wonder ‘who is this guy?’ And I kind of feel unauthorized. But I feel good that I have given back to people, because I feel that I owe people.”

Rubbing his hands together like an excited child about to devour a sweet treat coupled with a beaming grin, Arcand eagerly slides his fingers across the polished black piano in the church foyer. A few passersby’s recognize the alluring melody he plays and stop to take videos and pictures with him.

An hour later he heads back out to the comfort of the streets and back into obscurity.

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1 thought on “Homeless Piano Man Ryan Arcand losing hope, living in the shadows of a ‘broken dream’

  1. Heart wrenchingly sweet & so depressing. I hope he can find someone or a group to help him break this vicious cycle. It is all he knows, sadly. My heart goes out to Ryan Arcand. He seems so very alone & in his own World. 🙁

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