Musideum: Where Music Lives

Donald Quan of Musideum.png

Story:Don Graham

Imagine going to a museum and being told it was alright to touch artifacts, pick them up and, if they are musical instruments, play them. Composer Donald Quan has created just such a venue and atmosphere. It’s actually a retail store called Musideum.

The store is stocked with rare and unusual instruments that patrons are encouraged to touch, play and purchase. Udus, koras , ocirinas, cajitas, cigar box guitars, Portugese guiteras. “These fado guitars are actually manufactured right here in Toronto by a Portuguese guitar maker,” Quan explains when asked how he acquired this vast array of instruments. “I’ve traveled quite a bit and make it a quest to pick up local instruments on my journeys.” Quan goes on to say “In fact it doesn’t have to be an instrument, it can be an artifact that captures the vibe of Musideum and I’ll grab it and bring it back here.”

Located in downtown Toronto at Richmond and Spadina, in the heart of the fashion district, Musideum has been operating for about five years and Quan is always searching for the instruments that people won’t find at Steve’s or Long & McQuade music stores and takes great pride in his collection. Walking into the store your eyes will fix on one unique instrument only to be drawn to another even more unique.

Frankie Hart, Don-Graham, David WoodheadFrankie Hart, Don Graham, David Woodhead“The cool thing is you don’t need buckets of money to bring something home from Musideum, I have things here priced from $5 to $5,000. There is something for everyone.”

Last November Quan happened upon an idea he brought to fruition with some great success. He has turned his retail outlet into a ‘live’ music venue on certain evenings. There is no stage per se but a comfortable area to sit and listen while people perform, surrounded by all these beautiful instruments. I had the opportunity to play at the venue this week and it was amazing.

The occasion was an event nicknamed Bobapalooza, (named for guitarist Bob Cohen , who organized the gathering) a meeting of Toronto musicians and singer/songwriters getting together to jam and share an evening of music. The feel was intimate and electric with such notables as the ace of bass David Woodhead, guitarist Bob Cohen, Harold Harris, Montreal singer Frankie Hart, Mike Cavanaugh, soulful singer Suzanne Nuttall, Susan Cogan, Debora Selinger and the host Donald Quan on piano and fiddle.

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A little background on Donald Quan:
Born in Toronto and schooled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Quan was the recipient of the Joe Venuti Scholarship for stringed instrument performance. After he left college, Quan joined the Canadian rock band Lighthouse and played with them for three years. Prior to Lighthouse Quan was in the Canadian rock group Eye Eye as a keyboardist and violinist. He also performed with the Celtic-rock band Enter the Haggis as well as Juno nominated Afro-Canadian pop group Kaleefah.
Quan has been a long-time band member of Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt and has aided in the production of several studio albums and recordings including the acclaimed The Book of Secrets album.

Portuguese GuitarsPortuguese GuitarsQuan’s film music company Q Music Inc. has provided music services to hundreds of television, film, radio and multi-media productions including the popular television shows Relic Hunter (starring Tia Carrere for Fireworks Entertainment), Mutant X(Tribune Entertainment), Tracker (starring Adrian Paul for Lions Gate), Starhunter, and The War Next Door, the notable Aboriginal TV drama Moccasin Flats as well as feature films Expecting, and Eve.

Other notable projects include scoring the four-part documentary China Rises for CBC one of the first HD-TV projects for the network. Quan is also responsible for the current themes for Movie Television (City-TV), the cable network APTN and the well recognized theme for CBC Radio's Metro Morning. Quan has had numerous Gemini Award Nominations and was awarded the SOCAN International Television Series Award (2007/2006/2004) for his work on Relic Hunter.

So if you’re in Toronto drop by Musideum at 401 Richmond Street West during the day to pick up a momento and return in the evening for some unique entertainment or as Quan calls it ‘music without the cutlery.”