Local hero: how Musideum helped Donald Quan bounce back from a near-death experience

Making music has become a life-or-death situation for Donald Quan, proprietor of the ethnic musical instrument shop Musideum. In 2008,.


Making music has become a life-or-death situation for Donald Quan, proprietor of the ethnic musical instrument shop Musideum.

In 2008, he was performing at the Kitchener Blues Fest when he experienced a stroke and collapsed onstage. I dropped dead in the middle of an organ solo. My heart stopped, he says. Word in the community was I was dead.

Clinically he was, temporarily, and spent three weeks in an induced coma. His wife, who was pregnant with their now six-year-old twins, didnt know if hed pull through. When he did come to, he was oblivious to what had happened, like a baby being born.

He blames the health crisis on 20-hour workdays. Back then, he was running a recording studio in 401 Richmond, composing film and TV scores, touring as a session player and running Musideum, a shop he created for his ever-growing collection of instruments from around the world.

As a form of rehabilitation, he cut down his workload and reinvented Musideum as a live venue and has since hosted 1,600 jazz, classical, folk, experimental, country, spoken word and world music concerts in five years and split the cover charge with artists sometimes amateurs, sometimes pros like Grammy-nominated New Age musician Ron Korb.

The shop of musical curiosities evolved into a community hub where live musicians could be assured an attentive audience.

What I required was that when the show started, the doors closed and everybodys eyes were not to avert from the performer for almost two hours, Quan explains. Musicians loved it because whoever was there was going to stay.

Lately, Quan started feeling overworked again, so hes taking a break to concentrate on his family and making music. Musideum wound down with a series of farewell shows in March and a sale that moved 95 per cent of the inventory. Hes holding onto the name in case an opportunity arises to revive the brand in a new form.

In the meantime, hes working on a project with musician and McCain heiress Eleanor McCain in Newfoundland and rigging one of the two studios he keeps in the basement at 401 Richmond with cameras to start a food vlog.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @KevinRitchie

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