Happy Birthday to the Singing Ram

SingHere’s hoping the University’s big birthday next year is as much fun as the one just enjoyed by Ward Abusamra. The former music professor turned 100 in October; family gathered at his daughter’s house in Kingston. Son Joe ’82, who lives in Annapolis, Md., was there, and penned this note about his father:

Engineer majors singing. Biology majors singing. Business majors singing.

Everyone singing, or at least with the opportunity to sing.

Top, Abusamra singing at commencement; above, with his wife Barbara.
Top, Abusamra singing at commencement; above, with his wife Barbara. (Photos: Robert J. Iggo; courtesy Joe Abusamra)

That’s what Ward Abusamra set out to bring to the University of Rhode Island Music Department when he joined the faculty as voice professor in 1953 and where he taught for 29 years. For many years, he was known as the “Singing Voice of the Rams,” as he sang the national anthem for countless games at Keaney Gym and the Providence Civic Center (now the Dunk).

“Music should be for everyone,” he believed, and set out to make that possible. As director of the university chorus, one of his first moves was to hold rehearsals on Monday nights, rather than in the middle of the day when students typically had other classes.

This was one of many ways he grew the chorus to over 100 people, performing annual holiday concerts in December in Keaney Gym. Abusamra conducted; his wife, Barbara, also performed at the concerts.

In October, Abusamra turned 100 years old, and his legacy lives on. Residing just a few miles from the campus he loves, he counts numerous former students as friends. While many are involved in other professions, they still enjoy singing or attending concerts. Besides influencing all those non-music majors, he also taught music and voice majors—many music educators around the country had their beginnings with him at URI.

Abusamra continues to attend URI basketball and football games, as well as concerts. He has Rhody blue in his blood, and always loves talking about and promoting the school, which offers a scholarship fund in his name for voice students. •