ANITA SLEEMAN (née Andrés) was born on December 12, 1930 in San Jose, California to immigrant parents. She grew up in a rich multi-cultural area in San Francisco. Her father, Alexander Andrés, was a graphic artist and painter. He was born on a train near Toledo, Spain and came to the USA via Panama, Honduras, and Cuba. Her mother, Anna Dolgoff, an art student and milliner, hailed from Stavropol in the Caucasus region of Russia, and came to the USA after living with her family for a number of years in Uruguay. Anita has a younger sister, Alma.
Exhibiting a high aptitude for music at a very young age, she began piano lessons at age three, adding trumpet and horn during her school years. Sleeman's first major composition, a processional march for band, was played at her community college graduation.
While attending Placer College in California she met her future husband Evan Sleeman, a rancher who was also a music student. Together they had 6 children while living on a large ranch in Nevada. In 1963 the family emigrated to the remote Bella Coola region of British Columbia, Canada. Sleeman taught music appreciation, ear training, and band to the children at the local one-room school, five of the students being her own children. The grandmother of 12, and great-grandmother of 4, Sleeman now lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, where she conducts the Ambleside Orchestra, and composes at her home studio.
Following a move in 1967 to the Vancouver area of B.C., Sleeman returned to school to continue her training. At the University of British Columbia, she studied with Jean Coulthard and Cortland Hultberg, earning the degree of B. Mus. in 1971. The same year she and four other founding members, formed the Delta Youth Orchestra, which remains a training program for young musicians in the Vancouver area. While continuing her studies at UBC she obtained a Graudate Fellowship and taught in the Electronic Music Studio. She earned her M. Mus. in 1974. Sleeman was a member of the Music Faculty at Capillano College for a number of years before she returned to California to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Here she studied composition with Frederick Lesemann, composition and orchestration with James Hopkins, and contemporary conducting and composition with Earle Brown. Sleeman also attended Master Classes with Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono and Charles Wuorinen, and received her Doctorate in 1982. During this time she also studied at the Dick Grove Jazz school in Los Angeles.
At an early age Sleeman was introduced to the music of Olivier Messiaen whose inspiration has been important in her development. Other influences on Sleeman's music are Varèse, Stravinsky, Koechlin, Lígeti and Bartok. Her eclectic style has also been coloured by her own ethnic background and her interest in jazz. She greatly admires the work of the late Frank Zappa, to whose memory she has dedicated performances of her own pieces.
Anita Sleeman passed away on October 18th, 2011.
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