Katherine Hagedorn

Professor, ethnomusicologist, loving mother

Katherine Hagedorn, professor of music and director of Pomona College’s Ethnomusicology Program, died at home on November 12, 2013 after a prolonged illness. She was 52.

A member of the Pomona College music faculty since 1993, Ms. Hagedorn was a noted ethnomusicologist, specializing in Afro-Cuban and Balinese musical traditions and the link between ritual and folkloric music and religious experience.

An enthusiastic and adventurous traveler, her ethnomusicological research took her to Cuba, Indonesia, southern France and northern Spain. Her fascination with Afro-Cuban music, religion and culture led her to Batá drumming and to the practice and study of Santería and culminated in her book, Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeria (Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001), for which she won the 2002 Alan Merriam Prize for best ethnography, as well as many scholarly papers and reviews. In 2005 she received a Mellon New Directions Fellowship. Ms. Hagedorn also became proficient in the music and dance of Indonesia and frequently performed with the Pomona College Balinese Gamelan and the Cal Arts Gamelan Burat Wangi.

Known as an inspirational and gifted teacher, Ms. Hagedorn taught courses in the performance traditions of Latin America and the African diaspora, Roma performance and gender in music. She also oversaw Pomona’s Balinese Gamelan, Afro-Cuban Drumming and other non-Western ensembles. Ms. Hagedorn was honored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation as the 2000 California Professor of the Year. In 2002, she was selected by a vote of Pomona College students to receive a Wig Distinguished Professorship Award for excellence in teaching.

In 2012, she completed a three-year appointment as associate dean of the college, with responsibilities that included recruiting and mentoring new faculty, assessing student learning and serving as diversity officer for the college and as one of its grievance officers. She also served as co-coordinator of the Gender & Women’s Studies Program and for a time as a faculty resident advisor, living on campus with her family in Harwood Hall.

In a message to the Pomona College community, President David Oxtoby wrote, “Over the past few years, I was fortunate to get to know Katherine in a variety of professional capacities, first as a professor of music who was deeply engaged in all aspects of campus life and, more recently, in her wide-ranging and important work as associate dean of the college….I knew her as an innovative teacher, a dedicated scholar, a caring administrator and, quite simply, a remarkable and inspirational human being with a passion for music and for working with young people. For all of us here at Pomona College, this is an incalculable loss.”

Ms. Hagedorn, who grew up in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, loved music from infancy. At age 5, she demanded piano lessons and soon after began studying dance. After graduating from Governor Livingston Regional High School, Ms. Hagedorn received her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from Tufts University, with a triple major in Russian, Spanish and English and a minor in music (piano performance). She earned an MA in 1985 from the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, where she edited the SAIS Review. Working for Radio Free Europe and then for the Department of State, Ms. Hagedorn had very little time for her first love: music. She went on to earn another master’s degree and a doctorate in ethnomusicology from Brown University.

She spent her entire working career at Pomona College, supplemented by brief sojourns as a scholar-in-residence at Harvard University’s Center for the Study of World Religions and as a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She was a member of the board of directors of the national Society for Ethnomusicology and president of the southern California chapter of that organization.

She is survived by her husband, Terry Ryan, a professor at Claremont Graduate University; her son, Gabriel Hagedorn; two stepdaughters, Quincy B. Ryan and Greer B. Ryan; her parents, Fred and Grace Hagedorn; her sister Martha Hagedorn-Krass, brother-in-law Chris Krass, niece Jenifer Krass and her longtime friend and colleague, Peggy Waller.

A memorial service will be held at Pomona College to celebrate Ms. Hagedorn’s life on Saturday, December 14 at 10:30 a.m. in Little Bridges Hall of Music, 150 E. 4th St in Claremont. For more information, contact Cathy Endress at 621-8155 or mce04747@pomona.edu.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Pomona College or Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.


The above obituary was released by Pomona College and is being reprinted in the COURIER with permission.



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