Monntel West was waiting for a friend at the Lansing Mall, MI and decided to kill time by playing the piano. Fellow Lansing resident Sara Hadley recorded his performance, posted it to Facebook, and the rest was history.
Self-taught pianist West, 18, had no idea his life would change due to a one minute and 48 second video of him playing “River Flows In You,” a song by Yiruma, a South Korean pianist and composer.
“I was going up there to meet a friend,” West told the Lansing State Journal. “All of a sudden people started surrounding me.”
The Everett High School senior said although he started playing towards the end of eighth grade, no one really knew about his hidden talent except for close friends and family.
Now that the video’s gone viral, the whole world gets to see how talented this young man is—thanks to Sara Hadley, who captured the video in the mall near the Campus Den sports apparel shop.
Speaking via phone, West says he’s a little bit “flushed” due to the amount of exposure he’s gotten over the almost 2-minute long video, and there’s “a lot of things going on.” He mentioned he’d received tons of positive feedback from his friends and family. Nonetheless, he claims he’s doing okay and is handling the fame well.
“I feel really good about myself to know people have that much interest in me, and it feels really good. A lot of people believe me and in my talent, and want to see me do better,” West said.
What wowed everyone was two things: West doesn’t know how to read music since he’s never taken piano lessons before, except watching a couple of YouTube videos and practicing on a keyboard his dad brought him. Also, while performing Yiruma’s piece, West had the song “Loss of a Twin” —from the movie Eagle Eye—playing through his headphones.
West works at a cafeteria inside a MSU dormitory and lives in Lansing with his father and 16-year-old brother. He says he hasn’t been able to afford piano lessons, but plans to study music management at Lansing Community College. He would then like to transfer to Michigan State University to pursue that major.
The internet star describes himself as an “overachiever” and claims he has a “really good memory,” hence why it’s so easy to replicate music on to the piano.
There’s also a gofundme account set up for West, created by John Dewey, owner of Okemos Music Academy, to help raise money for West to get piano lessons. So far they’ve raised $735. Okemos Music Academy has agreed to cover the cost of the first two months of lessons, says Dewey.
When asked what made him go out of his way for a random young man, Dewey is earnest in his response. “I thought it was cool he was playing that piano in the mall while he was waiting for his friend. And the fact he played as well as he did, self-taught, without actually owning a piano, was very impressive. And then he expressed if he did get lessons he thinks he could get better, saying, ‘You could always get better.’”
Dewey feels he’s in a “unique position where I could offer two months of lessons for free and see how it goes.”
West told The Source he hasn’t followed up with Dewey yet, but he’s very much interested in his offer.
Congratulations Mr. West on your wonderful new journey.