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Sybil Dorothea Hast 1924-2019

Updated: May 30, 2019

SYBIL DOROTHEA HAST (May 8, 1924 – May 9, 2019)


Sybil Dorothea Heimann Hast passed away peacefully on May 9, 2019 at her home in

Middletown, Connecticut, a day after her ninety-fifth birthday. A passionate teacher

and raconteur, Sybil was most of all a lover of languages. During her lifetime, she

spoke and/or studied Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Italian and Japanese and was

fluent in English, French and German. Her childhood spent on four continents gave

her a unique perspective on the world and allowed her to absorb languages in an

almost effortless way. She used her skills to teach, coach and translate in a variety

of settings during her long professional career in Los Angeles.


Sybil was born in Shanghai where she lived until the age of six. Her father, Paul

Heinrich Heimann, was the China Manager for the German railway company,

Orenstein & Koppel. In 1921, he brought his wife, Elisabeth Halle Heimann from

Berlin to Shanghai, where they had two children: Sybil and Anne. Paul Heimann

was transferred back to Berlin in 1930, right before the rise of Hitler. The family left

Berlin in 1934, spent one year in Santiago, Chile, and then moved to London. After

going through the worst part of the Blitz in 1940-41, the Heimanns decided to move

once again because of Elisabeth’s deteriorating health. Paul Heimann thought his

wife would get better care away from the war in Europe and arranged for a transfer

to the USA. The family sailed to New York in 1941 on an ocean liner protected by a

military convoy.


After receiving her Cambridge School Certificate from the Parsons Mead School

(Ashtead, Surrey), Sybil spent one year at Peabody High School in Pittsburgh,

Pennsylvania where she graduated with honors in 1942. She then attended the

Pennsylvania College for Women (now Chatham University) for two years and went

on to graduate from Smith College in 1946. She was accepted into graduate school

in German Language and Literature at UCLA that same year. She withdrew from the

program in 1948 to marry David G. Hast in Pittsburgh. There she had two children

and was involved in volunteer work that included helping to start the Unitarian

Universalist Church in the North Hills, which held its first service in 1958. After her

divorce in 1959, she went back to school to receive her M.A. in French at the

University of Pittsburgh (1964) and her M.A. in German Language and Literature

from UCLA (1966). She also received a diploma from the University of Barcelona

(1972) where she studied Spanish and Spanish Literature.


Sybil began her professional career teaching German language courses in the UCLA

German Department from 1966 until 1970. She then became the language and

diction coach for the UCLA Opera Theater under the direction of Dr. Jan Popper in

the Department of Music. She realized her true love here—working with singers on

art songs in different languages (Italian, French, German and Spanish). Although not

a professional musician herself, she lived and breathed opera and developed

techniques for teaching diction and pronunciation to singers. She stayed actively

involved as a faculty member in the Music Department until her retirement in 1993.


Sybil was also a creative and industrious freelancer. In addition to other ventures,

she taught as an adjunct in German at Santa Monica College, did French and German

translations, and began a language consulting company that provided Spanish

language intensives for doctors and nurses at area hospitals, ESL classes for foreign

medical personnel, and translation services. She worked in the Oral History

Program at UCLA beginning in 1986 and interviewed many eminent musicians,

including Mehli Mehta, Roger Wagner, Dorothy Kirsten and Louis Kaufman. In 1986,

she also co-founded the Westside Opera Workshop with her friend and colleague,

vocal coach and accompanist Roger Malouf. During its years of operation, the

Westside Opera provided singers in the Santa Monica area with the opportunity to

study operatic roles and present them in concert performances of complete operas.

Her last professional endeavor, besides teaching and coaching, was as a Hollywood

voice-over artist, under the guidance of veteran actor and voice over coach Don

Pietromonaco (Johnny Rabbit).


After moving to Middletown, Connecticut in 2001 to be close to her daughter, Sybil

continued teaching German and public speaking on a part time basis. She was also

an avid knitter and a lover of all plants, but especially cacti and succulents.


Sybil is survived by her daughter, Dorothea Elizabeth Hast and her husband Stanley

Scott of Middletown, CT, her son, Thomas David Hast of Boulder, Colorado, two

grandchildren, Daniela Cusack and Marisa Hast and two great grandchildren,

Gabriela and Davy.


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