Anita Vitols Eglite Sebastian
Anita Sebastian, an accomplished choral conductor, pianist, and singer had extensive experience in Europe as a conductor and teacher and performer of both classical and Christian music before moving to Ontario, Canada, in 2003. She has continued to be active as a performer, conductor, and teacher.
Anita was born and raised in Riga, the capital of Latvia, the only child of Konstatins and Alma Vitols. Music was an important part of life in her home. When she was six, her parents, recognizing Anita's innate ability, bought a piano and arranged for her to take piano lessons. A year later, she began voice study and throughout her childhood sang in various school groups as a soloist with instrumental ensembles.
She attended the Riga Conservatory No. 2 in 1959, where she studied piano, solfeggio, and music literature for eight years. She then entered the Jazepa Medina Academy of Music (conservatory program of the Lativa State University School of Music in Riga) in 1969, completing a diploma in choral conducting and the teaching of singing and solfegge in 1972.
Anita attended the Latvia State University of Music for five years, where she completed a diploma in choral conducting, singing, and related studies in 1977. From 2001 to 2002, she completed Professional Mastery Perfection courses in music history and music theory at LSUM. She taught at all of the schools she attended during her studies.
Following graduation in 1977, Anita taught music at the high school and grade school level and did extensive choral work in different schools. She also danced in the National Dance Ensemble and sang as a member and soloist in several choirs that toured throughout Europe.
She worked as a choral artist for two years in Latvian National Television and Radio networks and did numerous recordings. She later served as an administrator and music editor for six years on those same networks.
Anita became a Seventh-day Adventist in 1993. At that time she formed a small choir with young girls ages six to ten, drawn from the first and second grades at a Christian school in Riga where she was teaching, and named them The Sparrows. She developed a sound that was gentle and pure, reflecting the innocence of that age group. A CD and cassette recording of the group's singing, which was very successful, generated significant income for the school and led to a second recording of Christmas music. A third CD and cassette, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore You, was released in 2000.
An observer of her work who had heard and seen the group perform and rehearse in 1995 during a celebration of the centennial of the Riga church described that experience:
During the celebration festivities I heard the group perform. Anita did not conduct the group but sat to the side. During that performance, as well as on their most recent CD, she sang some of the solos.
The celebration coincided with the first day of school and I was invited to the group's first practice. During the first ten to fifteen minutes they practiced proper breathing and tonal exercises and then we all knelt and about half of the girls voluntarily prayed. The discipline during the class was remarkable.
The Sparrows rehearsed two hours every day and had regular studies for another two hours. Additionally, because the school emphasized the arts and music, each child took lessons and pursued study in other performance areas such as flute and harp. Beginning in 1999, The Skylarks, a boy's choir, was started that was occasionally combined with The Sparrows at performances.
After Anita married Josef Douglas Sebastian, a guitarist from Canada, in 2003, she returned with him to Paris, Ontario, Canada. Since then, she has become a member of the Ontario Registered Music Teachers' Association (ORMTA), started Anita Sebastian's Piano and Vocal Studio, and is very active as a singer, teacher, and conductor.
She is a frequent soloist in Adventist churches, serves as a pianist, and conducts a children's choir, accompanying the group on piano or on occasion being assisted by her husband with his guitar. She also leads choirs of both children and adults in the Brantford Slavic Gospel Church and teaches music at the church.
Sources: Letter and information provided by Anita Sebastian in 2008; IAMA Notes, Spring/Summer 1999.