February 26, 1941 - May 10, 2017


Musician and teacher extraordinaire!

Mati was born in Tallinn, Estonia, in 1941 during tumultuous times. He was the youngest of three children, sister Maara (who passed away from illness before Mati was born) and older brother Ants. Following the Russian invasion of Estonia, Mati’s family was arrested by the authorities. His mother Erna (née Sergo) managed to escape with Mati and Ants, but his father, Prits Sulev did not and later became a casualty of war. The family fled to Sweden like many other Estonian exiles. In 1949, facing the possibility of forced repatriation to the Soviet Union, Mati’s family came to Toronto, where a large Estonian community was establishing itself.

The family first lived in downtown Toronto, then soon moved to the Beach neighbourhood, where Mati spent the greater part of his youth. Despite his difficult circumstances as a new immigrant, Mati adapted well to his new environment, excelling in academics and athletics. In particular, he showed a precocious talent in music which continued to develop as he grew older. He initially played the violin, winning the silver medal for Grade VIII violin from the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1956. At Malvern CI, Mati became an accomplished trombone player under the mentorship of George McRae, who continued to be an important role model for Mati.

During high-school, Mati also met Judy Gordon, whom he would eventually marry in 1965. Mati and Judy bought a house in Scarborough where they continue to reside. Their first son Erik was born in 1970 and their youngest son Martin in 1973.

Mati obtained his degree in music (Mus.Bac.) from the University of Toronto in 1963. In need of a job and soon to be married, Mati decided to become a teacher. After receiving his teaching certificate, Mati began to teach at Malvern CI, the same school he himself had attended. Always a musician, he also continued to play trombone professionally on occasion. He later transferred to Riverdale CI, where he would become the Head of Music, a post he held until his retirement in 1996.

As a teacher, Mati was well-liked by his students, in part for his fashionable clothes and sporty cars, but more so for his patience, kindness, and sense of humour. He touched the lives of many students becoming a close mentor for some. Many others will surely remember with some fondness the annual pool parties that Mati held for his graduating classes.

After his retirement, Mati continued to be active, although declining health prevented him from enjoying many activities as much as he would have wished. He loved sailing and working around his house and garden.

Mati passed away suddenly on May 10 from complications stemming from a fall. He will be dearly missed by his friends and family. To enjoy photos of Mati’s life, please link to the Instagram page (user profile: estomatipics, or use this link set up in Mati’s memory.

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22 thoughts on “SULEV, Mati

  1. So sorry to read about Mati’s passing. I have very fond memories from the Estonian
    childrens’ camp Jöekääru in Udora when I was a camper and Mati was our councillor in
    1957. Under Mati’s leadership we had an action-packed and memorable summer. We built an
    amazing communal fort where and we slept overnight, went on interesting hikes, played our
    “luure mängud” (“war” games) at night in the dark forests, trained for our Intermediate
    Red Cross Swimming Certificate etc. etc. Also, danced to the great music of his trio
    with brother Ants(accordian), friend Eero Verret(drums) and Mati with his amazing trombone
    during our party nights (co-ed camp)! Puhka Rahus.

    —Kalev (Kal) Raudoja, Toronto -
  2. Dear Judy,
    I am so sorry to hear about Mati’s passing. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    Thank you for including the photos of Mati through the years. Several bring back memories of times my family and the Sulev family shared. My mother and Mrs. Sulev developed a close friendship, as immigrants to Canada, which led to many family celebrations and get togethers. Music was a large part of these events. For us, Mati would play the “fiddle” not the violin. He was always kind, considerate and helpful when and wherever needed.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you, Judy, and your family. May your memories of Mati help to console you at this difficult time.

    —Tiiu. Kurvits, Kingston, ON -
  3. I enjoyed his friendship and stories and our great times sailing together. I could never keep up with him when walking as he had such a long stride. I will miss his camaradie and sailing will not be quite the same, Ralph Budd

    —Ralph budd, York -
  4. My thoughts and prayers are with the Sulev family. He had big shoes to fill with George Mcrae.. Matti always had a smile on his face and brought a lot of young band members on to the senior bands. Goerge and Matti encouraged my music career and I am still playing to-day. It sounds as he was well liked at Riverdale. Those who teach music are well remembered. May the Lord shine upon you and give you peace.

    —Sandy Richmond, Shanty Bay On. -
  5. I’m very sad to hear about this. Mati was and excellent role model, friend, and mentor to me. I remember the times he took to talk with me about music education and he played a significant role in my life as I made the rocky transition from a awkward teen to educator. I’m quite sure that without the influence of both Mati and George in Malvern and later, my life would have taken a totally different course. Thanks my friend and rest in peace.

    —Richard Lamoureux, Bracebridge ON -
  6. Dear Judy, I am so sorry to learn of Mati’s passing. I remember so fondly our years at Malvern then at Trinity. You and he were such a lovely couple. I am glad that he was able to have a career as a music teacher. I hope you are keeping well…Much love, Linda. (

    —Linda Whitehead, Aylmer, Quebec. -
  7. Dear Judy:

    I am very sorry to hear of your beloved Mati’s passing, but I know he had a rich and meaningful life and you and he had many decades together from your early high school years. Your marriage was one of the lasting ones.

    My younger brother, Chris, and my sister-in-law, Barb Dowd Purdy, all remember Mati’s music teaching and stand-out presence very vividly. My thoughts are with you and your sons.–Diana Swift (Malvern CI, Grade 9A, Class of 1960)

    —Diana Swift , Toronto -
  8. Very sorry to her of Matis’ passing. After reading his bio its exactly the impression I got of him being a sensitive gently man. He spoke highly of my brother Mike and told me a couple of stories about when Mike was his student. which I really appreciated him talking to me about. I told Mati that anytime Mike spoke of him he said Mati was a good teacher and a cool guy. He did mention Mati had nice cars. Please feel welcome at the house anytime for any length of time. Even if Joy and the girls aren’t there. In on the road and in hotels almost all the time. I’m including Mati in my prayers.

    —John Casey, T.O. -
  9. Mr. Sulev will be greatly missed by all his students at Riverdale Collegiate Institute. He was a very kind, caring and wonderful music teacher and friend. My condolences to all his family and close friends. It was a privilege and honour to have known Mr. Sulev and his brother Ants Sulev during high school as a teacher and mentor. I will miss him very much Marlene Gangasingh (and Jaan /Reet Krabi). I became a teacher because of Mr. Sulev and I will treasure his memory.

    —Marlene Gangasingh, 18 Fareham Cres., Scar., Ontario -
  10. I graduated from Riverdale CI in 1988 and I am very happy to have had Mr. Sulev as my music teacher for the five years I was there. Mati was larger than life to me. He was always so calm in class and was very patient with all his students even though none of us were very good and it took us forever to get any song right. He inspired to be a better musician and helped me appreciate music in all forms. Even more so, I admired his patience, demeanour and kind heart and only hope I have presented myself the same way to some young people somewhere along the way in my life.

    Outside of the odd very simple instruction for one of his fledgling students, Mati never actually picked up an instrument to play at RCI for almost the entire time I was there, but I remember bugging him about it for a couple of years and then finally walking into the music room one day in grade 13 and hearing him playing the trombone. His sound was so full and rich…to me, it was almost like listening to a $10,000 stereo system after only ever hearing music through a clock radio before. That was what music was supposed to sound like.

    I am the youngest of 13 kids in my family, and most of us went to Riverdale, and most of us took instrumental music with either Mati, or his brother Ants before him as our music teacher. We all have many fond memories of our music classes, as well as stage band and jazz band experiences over the years, not to mention the great band trips we all got to experience…all with one of the Sulevs at the helm.

    On behalf of my brothers and sisters in the Lauzon family, I would like extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Sulev family.

    —Brian Lauzon, Toronto -
  11. Bev and I met in high school at Malvern C. I. back in the late 60′s and we’re privileged to be schooled in music by Mister Sulev under the tutelage of George McRae. Both men were terrific leaders of budding musicians, but Mati was the one that really sent the girls’ hearts aflutter, a sturdy, tall, fit and handsome Estonian-Canadian. Our hearts go out to the family and friends if an outstanding individual that we fondly remember. We’re it not for the high school band experience, Bev and I would never have had the last 48 years together as a couple. Bless you, Mats.

    —Stephane & Beverley Carret, Mississauga -
  12. I have fond memories of taking music classes with Mr. Sulev at Malvern Collegiate in the 1970′s. Mr. Sulev was a kind, caring teacher who was passionate about teaching, music and his students. It was a privilege to have had Mr. Sulev as a teacher. My sincere condolences to the Sulev family.

    —Amanda , Toronto -
  13. I have known Mati for many years. We met at a very young age in Sweden, at a children’s camp. We were both without fathers after escaping from Estonia. Our paths crossed again once in Canada at a summer camp in Udora. Mati and I played in the same orchestra and jazz bands at Malvern C.I. Our most memorable times were playing at various events in Sulev’s band. His brother Ants on piano and accordion, Mati on trombone and me on drums. We also enjoyed playing squash, tennis and billiards and of course shared many anecdotes and laughs afterwards. I think he found me a formidable opponent ;-) . I will always remember his great sense of humour, honesty, fairness and non-judgmental attitude towards anyone. I will miss him greatly.
    Rest in peace old friend.
    Eero Verret

    —Eero Verret, West Hill -
  14. I was so very sad to hear this news.My heartfelt condolences go out to Mati’s family. Patient, kind, funny and modest (despite the fact that he was so tall dark and handsome!)…yes, that is exactly how I remember Mr. Sulev. How lucky we all were to have had him touch our lives. R.I.P. Mati.

    —Kirstin Campbell, Toronto -
  15. Condolances Erik and Mon. Erik I had no idea your Dad was so deeply routed in music. Makes me sad that I never got a chance to meet and have a chat with him. From what I just read, he was obviously a wonderful man and a good father.

    —Bruce Haines, Whitby -
  16. There a lot of people from Malvern remembering Mr. Sulev fondly. My condolences to his family & my understanding of his families trials to get here. My mother’s family came from Estonia, but thru Poland.

    —Krys-Tyna Collins, Jordan, Ontario -
  17. I have very fond memories of music classes with Mr. Sulev! He taught me in the 70′s. I am so sorry for your loss and you have my deepest sympathies.

    —Cheryl Martin, Mississauga -
  18. I would like to extend my deepest, heartfelt condolences to Mr. Sulev’s family on his passing. A wonderful teacher, mentor and friend. I have never forgotten your kindness to me or your sense of humour that always kept me laughing each class. Your encouragement for me to excel will never be forgotten! RIP my friend until we meet again!

    —Adelaide Holmes , Niagara -
  19. Condolences to the Sulev family. Mr Sulev was always
    highly regarded and I know for a fact that many of us girls
    blushed in his presence. He had a gentle demeanour, was a
    snappy dresser and a very handsome gentleman. He will be missed
    by many Malverites.

    —Emily Langevin, Richmond, BC -
  20. My sincere condolences to the Sulev family. Although I never had Mr. Sulev as a teacher, I admired and respected him as one of Malvern’s finest.

    —Jan Boase, Toronto -