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North Idaho musician reaches millions with unique instrument

Musician Ethereal in E started playing the handpan on the streets a decade ago. Now, he plays for millions online.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A soothing melody sweeps over the rocky shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, mixing with the sounds of the water. The peaceful sounds come from a quiet beach overlooking lake Coeur d’Alene, where musician Ethereal in E played a unique instrument called the handpan.

The handpan is a steel drum and is a relatively new, obscure instrument. Adam Foote’s love for the handpan started decades ago when he started playing drums as a kid.

Foote played drums for his church. The experience launched a life-long dream of becoming a professional musician. However, life quickly got in the way of that goal.

“I became an adult and went to college, got married, got a job, had a baby. And, you know, all of those childhood dreams kind of go out the window when reality sets in,” Foote said.

Deep down Foote never let that dream go. After going through a hard divorce, Foote bought himself a drumset again. He joined a band and pursued his lifelong dream until he was kicked out of the band.

He was immediately knocked back down, struggling to make ends meet.

“I was donating plasma for cash, laying there in the donation bed. I was flipping through percussion-related videos just dreaming of being a professional musician again someday," Foote said. "And I came across this video of a guy in a London subway playing a handpan for tips."

That video sparked Foote’s curiosity and gave him a new passion. He spent three years saving up to buy his first handpan.

After he finally saved up enough money to buy his first handpan, Foote started his career busking on Sherman Avenue in Downtown Coeur d’Alene. He posted his journey on Facebook, gaining a bit of traction.

In 2020 Foote switched over to TikTok, where he quickly started gaining a loyal following. In just two years, he gained more than 8 million followers across all his platforms.

"TikTok really took me from an amateur professional musician to a really true professional musician,” Foote said.

Instead of performing in front of a large live crowd like his childhood dream, Foote plays for thousands online every day. His message now spreading around the world

“People are just so caught up in everyday life that they forget to actually live life. And sometimes it takes getting lost in a rhythm, a moment to help you to remember that this moment is the only moment that we have,” Foote said.

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