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Helve Sastok: Biography

Helve Sastok
1958 -
Region: Prairie

Helve Sastok

Helve Sastok was born August 31, 1958 in Edmonton, Alberta of parents who had recently emigrated from Estonia. She was brought up in this northern European environment, with Estonian spoken at home and only English in later years. Music is an intergral part of the Estonian culture, and, and a result, she was placed into music lessons. Sastok began group piano lessons in 1964 at six years of age and was quickly placed into private lessons the following year, with Lydia Pals. In 1966, she began violin lessons with Serge Eremenko. These two stayed as her performance instruments all the way through university, with the addition of pipe organ lessons in her final years of the undergraduate degree.

In 1970, Lydia Pals decided to expose her younder students to composition lessons. At the age of 12, Sastok was considered too old for this experiment of Pals'. After she protested, she was also permitted to begin her first composition classes. Thus began Sastok's formal jounery towards a degre in composition from the University of Alberta and a future life of creative work.

There were many Kiwanis Festival wins in piano or composition classes over the years. Provincial classes in composition occurred on a regular basis. Participation in concerts was frequent. Overall talent and work produced results for Sastok.

In 1976, she entered the University of Alberta, the Department of Music, and graudated in 1980, with destinction. From 1979 onwards, she performed various piano recitals, which also involved her compositions, across Canada and in Europe. These were also busy years for teaching and composing, plus raising her family of two boys.

From 1990 to 1997, Sastok focused her compositional activities on a series of piano books for children. Music Everywhere! is a program developed by here to be developmentally appropriate to the age level of a child. It is a unique program making use of improvisation and composition as a bases of learning to play the piano.

The Artist in Schools Residency Program became part of Sastok's life in January 1993, when her proposal for a compisition residency was accepted. Not only was she teaching private and group lessons (up to the Royal Conservatoyr ARCT level and all the theoretical subjects involved), but she began workin many elementary schools in Alberta, teaching the children how to composer. Sastok have many workshops, adjuicated music festivals, saw her business grow, and continued to perform as a solist and as an accompanist through all these years.

In 1998, Sastok opened the first public open house of the Friends of the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditoriums' Society with her composition, Jubilee Miniatures, for piano. She also completed a commission, Outpost, for the Edmonton Composers Concert Society. Two of ther pieces have been recleased on CD: Duologue on Brief Confessions (1997) and Elegy on Glossa (1999). In 1999, her composition Duologue will be performed at the Winspear Centre rESOund Festival of Contemporary music (sponsored for The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra).

More recently, composing larger works has been her goal along with continuing with educational materials. At the time of this writing, she is also applying to return to school for a Masters degree in composition in September 1999. The creative inner drive leads her forward in her musical life.



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