Airport Pianist Gets Massive Tip

Tonee 'Valentine' Carter, 66, isn't famous, but he does perform for an international audience nearly every day at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Travelers lucky enough to hear him often find themselves hypnotized by his music. That's what happened to Carlos Whittaker, a motivational speaker who was traveling home to Tennessee last week after a speaking engagement was canceled.


"I was super bummed that morning and had to reroute to Atlanta. As I was walking through the concourse, I heard someone playing the piano, and I just had to walk by them," Whittaker told CNN. "There was Tonee, going down and going to town and I knew I just had to stay there."


For an hour and a half Whittaker sat at the piano bar in Concourse A, listening to the music that seemed to effortlessly flow from Carter's fingertips. The author, podcaster and Instagram influencer also took videos of the musician and shared them with his "InstaFamilia," which include more than 200,000 followers.


Eventually, the two men began talking, even sharing intimate details about their lives. When Carter returned to his piano, Whittaker came up with an idea. "Suddenly I was like, what would happen if I asked my Instagram followers if we could give him the biggest tip he's ever gotten," he said. "Within 30 minutes, we had raised $10,000."


And, when Whittaker told Carter the good news "I just lost it. I thought he was kidding, I just couldn't believe it. That just doesn't happen. I didn't know how to feel. This is the kind of the thing I do. I love giving and donating and helping people, but I never expected someone to do it for me."


Whittaker then boarded his plane. "By the time I landed in Nashville, it was $20,000. And by the time I interviewed him for my podcast that night, it was $44,000. And as of this conversation, it's at $61,000," Whittaker said on Friday evening.

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