In West Fargo, the ‘piano man’ is 14 years old

What were you doing in the 8th grade?

Cole Willis, 14, has already selected his college. He wants to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and become an engineer. Now he’s moved on to figure out how to pay for it; it’ll cost about $59,000 a year in 2014 dollars.

He’s got that figured out, he says. He’ll reach the ivory tower with a little ivory power. He plays the piano for tips, according to the Fargo Forum.

On a quiet afternoon last week, the lanky middle-schooler straightens his back and locks his eyes on the sheet music, nimbly navigating sonatas by Beethoven and Mozart.

“I usually go right to it,” he said.

But don’t expect a chatty Billy Joel-type of guy.

“I’m kind of a serious person. I’m not sure I want to be a performer,” he said straight up.

A sign next to the keyboard reads: “Aspiring to go to MIT. Tips would be greatly appreciated.”

His mother, Karen Wills, said that with practicing at home on a piano, his daily two-hour gigs in the bakery and playing at other spots around town, Cole puts in 20 hours or more a week playing.

“When he’s here, I let him play what he feels. I’m not picky,” his mom said.

“You’d be surprised at how incredibly encouraging and kind people are,” his mother says. “Sometimes I’m so absolutely shocked at how generous people are.”

Watch the video here.