In August 2009, Donald Quan experienced a near-fatal heart arrhythmia while playing the keyboards on stage in Kitchener, Ontario. He was clinically dead for 17 minutes. When he came to, all Quan could think of was music.
“Music was the first thing I thought of,” Quan, a self-taught multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer, recalls. “Remembering my childhood, I just wanted to play music.” With the help of musician friends, including Ron Korg and David Maracle, Quan went from being 95% disabled from the stroke to 50% disabled.
“David managed to push his way into intensive care, explaining that he was my soul brother,” Quan explains, laughing. It worked. David Maracle, a native flautist and healer, left an event he was appearing at to rush to Quan’s side and to play for Donald.
“The first six visitors I had were all from the music community,” Quan said. “They all brought their instruments unsure if I could even play. Ron Korg brought me six CD compilations of music from the seventies that I liked,” including music by Stevie Wonder and The Police. Eventually, Quan would pick away at the chapel organ at the Kitchener hospital (check).
After two years of rehabilitation at Toronto Rehab Institute, Quan was unable to find the help he needed to return to life as a full-time composer.
“There’s no creative rehabilitation program to deal with creative people,” Quan explains. “I’d try to tell my rehabilitation case worker that what I needed help with was knowing how to emotionally interpret a film scene but they were unable to assist.”
So Quan transfrormed Musideum, his storefront-museum at 401 Richmond St. that housed his collection of exotic world instruments gathered from multiple music tours, into a unique concert venue. He wanted to create an intimate concert venue where music was the main focus.
“Musideum was where I rehabilitated musically,” Quan said. “For five years, I worked 20 hours a day and hosted 2000 concerts. I ran the operations of the store and was the first to bring music into 401 Richmond.” Through his dedication, Quan managed to regain financial stability and, more importantly, return to his former life as a composer and producer. At some concerts, he’d join the stage to jam with the other musicians or play pieces he could remember.
In March, 2016, Quan shuttered the Musideum for a hiatus to spend time with his family, which includes his twin daughters, to relax and return to composing. He has just returned from Boston and Los Angeles film festival premieres of his first scoring job since his stroke.
After hosting Music Can Heal’s annual fundraiser concerts every November 11, Quan will open Music Can Heal’s Arts in the Parks Summer Concert Series with Debbie Danbrook at Earl Bales Barry Zukerman Amphitheatre on June 15, 2016. Not to be missed!