Norm Abbey went back to school after retirement to pursue his love of music. He performs with Malaspina Choir at the Port Theatre Nov. 13.

Musician finally follows dream

Norm Abbey returns to school to earn the music degree he wanted as a young adult

By Kathryn-Jane Hazel

In 1963 University of B.C. student Norm Abbey had to make a tough decision.  Would he major in science or music?

He chose science, and sold his French horn to help pay for his tuition.

“David Suzuki was still teaching at UBC then and biology and molecular genetics were at a pretty interesting stage,” he said.

But music remained a passion. He sang in the Malaspina Choir for almost 20 years, belonged to a Nanaimo Conservatory of Music recorder group, and was a founding member of a brass quintet, the Nob Hill Brass, named after the neighbourhood where he lived and the group rehearsed.

Now retired, and at age 65 able to attend university classes for free, he decided to get the music degree he had to leave behind almost 50 years ago, and is enrolled full-time in the music program at Vancouver Island University – and he’s loving it.

He does face challenges as a senior student, he said.

“Time-management, staying healthy to keep up with the work load, and trying to learn jazz on a French horn – now that’s a minority,” he said.

A dedicated cyclist – the members of the Nob Hill Brass were known for their avoidance of the automobile, arriving at concert venues by boat, pedal-kayak, and bicycle, instruments in tow – he takes the bus uphill to VIU and then rides downhill back home.

He discovered that he’s not alone as a member of the baby boomer set attending university, as there are at least two or three mature students in most of his classes, and he finds that an interesting shift in student demographics.

“The majority of the young and international people in my classes are, of course, very refreshing and energizing,” he said.  “I am impressed with their musical abilities, including the first-year students right out of high school.”

A special pleasure for him has been singing with the Cantabile Chamber Choir, made up of students from the music department.  They are joining the Malaspina Choir in a performance of the Fauré Requiem at the Port Theatre Nov. 13.

Abbey sang the Fauré Requiem when he was a member of the Malaspina Choir.

“I like his requiem better every time I hear it,” he said. “I’m not really able to say why though, precisely other than ‘I like it’.”

Composer Gabriel Fauré wrote his requiem between 1887 and 1890 and it is one of the most recognized.

The Malaspina Choir performs the requiem, plus other French favourites with the Cantabile Choir and musicians from the Vancouver Island Symphony at the Port Theatre Nov. 13 at 2 p.m.

Tickets $25; $15/students. Please call 250-754-8550 or visit www.porttheatre.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo mall hosting ‘dance up to bullies’ event on Pink Shirt Day

Aunti Bobbi the Clown organizing song-and-dance fundraiser

Astrophysicist to explain how new telescope turns stars into rainbows

Guest speaker describes 11.25-metre aperture Maunakea Spectral Explorer program Feb. 27 in Nanaimo

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: NRGH needs additional disability parking stalls

Hospital has greater need of disability parking than the mall, for example, says letter writer

VIU hoops teams head into provincials on winning note

Vancouver Island University women’s and men’s teams have first-round byes

VIU Mariners add provincial championship to undefeated season

Vancouver Island University women’s team defeats Camosun in PacWest final

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

City of Nanaimo looks at corporate names for civic facilities

Finance and audit committee recommends approving plan to create policy around facility naming rights

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

UPDATE: Two missing scout leaders found near Sooke after swollen creek traps troop

Third leader and scouts located, prior to search for two leaders who’d gone for help

Harvey Weinstein found guilty of sex crimes in landmark #MeToo trial

The cases against the Hollywood mogul started the #MeToo movement

CRA puts focus on paper returns as tax-filing season opens

The federal tax collector expects to handle about two million paper returns this calendar year out of roughly 26 million filings

Most Read