1930 - 2011
Anita Sleeman (née Andrés) was born on December 12, 1930 in San Jose, California to immigrant parents. She grew up in a rich multicultural 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 lived in West Vancouver, British Columbia, where she conducted the Ambleside Orchestra, and composed at her home studio.
Following a move in 1967 to the Vancouver area of BC, 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 BMus 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 Graduate Fellowship and taught in the Electronic Music Studio. She earned her MMus 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 was important in her development. Other influences on Sleeman's music were Varèse, Stravinsky, Koechlin, Lígeti and Bartok. Her eclectic style was also coloured by her own ethnic background and her interest in jazz. She greatly admired the work of the late Frank Zappa, to whose memory she dedicated performances of some of her own pieces.
Biography taken from the Canadian Music Centre.