Spring 2001, Volume 37, No. 2


Lives of a Saint

Altruism 101
Reach Out!
Venture Catalysts
Sagehens in Paradise

-Pomona Forum-
Altruism 101
-News Print-
Professor's Philosophy of Life Unshaken

-Pomona Today-
Professor of the Year

Inside the Power Crunch
Rite of Passage
Top Five
Frats with a Difference
Bridge Over the Pacific
-New Knowledge-
The Secrets of the Hydra
-Sports Report-
Dynamic Duos
Getting On
George Moore
-Campaign Update-
American Dreams

-Parlor Talk-
-Family Tree-
-Alumni Profile-
Casey Trupin '95
-Alumni Puzzler-
-Back Cover-
Pilgrims' Progress


Click to listen to Pomona's Balinese Gamelan Ensemble.

From a child-sized piano to Cuban folkloric Bata drums, Assistant Professor of Music Katherine Hagedorn, the 2000 California Professor of the Year, has traveled an extraordinary road.
   A New Jersey native and the daughter of an architectural preservationist and a physicist, she began what would evolve into a career in ethnomusicology at four-and-a-half years old by plunking out television commercial jingles on a wooden piano, a gift from her parents. "It wasn't like I was Beethoven or anything, I played with my tiny two fingers," explains Hagedorn.
   In December, Hagedorn was selected to be the California Professor of the Year for the year 2000 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The award noted her excellence and creativity in the classroom.
   "I was astonished and shocked and even a little embarrassed," says Hagedorn of the cellophane-wrapped certificate in her otherwise cluttered office. Amid piles of papers and folders that meander around bookshelves, a piano and assorted drums, Hagedorn sits perched behind a computer monitor plastered with notes, shyly explaining away her recent honor. "The only way I could wrap my mind around the award was to think of myself as representing all my remarkable and talented colleagues. "
   With a humble smile, she explains that she was "all right" during her first year at Pomona in 1993. "I'm serious," she says, "I wasn't good. Students complained that I was too hard and too uptight." Today her classes are lively and often loud since she practices a pedagogy that emphasizes participation. "If we are learning about West African music, if we're reading about it, listening to it, we're playing it too. If we're learning about Bulgarian singing styles, then to the best of our abilities, we sing in half steps and whole steps right next to each other. Same with Tuvan throat singing and Balinese Gamelan. I try to get the students to do it."
   Drawing images in the air with her hands, as she often does when she talks or lectures, Hagedorn illustrates the path she took from New Jersey to Claremont--and from that toy piano to the Bata drums. During her childhood, her family visited new locales outside the U.S. each year. "My mom would spend the year planning where we would go, and during the winter we'd go someplace warm--one year it was Mexico; another year it was Puerto Rico, then Venezuela and the Dominican Republic."
   With an avid interest in languages, Hagedorn completed a bachelor's degree at Tufts University with a triple major in Russian, Spanish and English and a minor in classical piano. She then graduated from the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies with a master's degree in Soviet and Latin American studies and got a job with the State Department during the Reagan administration. But after serving in posts with the Bureau of Public Affairs and the Bureau of Near East and South Asian Affairs, Hagedorn found the job at odds with both her ideals and her style. "I didn't like having my thoughts and creative impulses channeled toward a goal that was not of my own making or with which I did not agree. I could do the job, but I wasn't flourishing."
   So, combining her love of cultures and languages with her love of music, she entered Brown University's ethnomusicology program. "I figured that if I had to earn a living, I might as well do something that I really like and train myself for it."
   It was during her stint at Brown that Hagedorn attended a concert that featured Orlando Puntio de los Reyes, a Cuban folkloric musician who played Bata drums. "That concert pretty much changed my life," she says. "It kind of hit me in the solar plexus, and I decided right then that I needed to go to Cuba to hear more." So in 1989, only a year later, she made her first trip to Cuba to begin her research on Afro-Cuban music.
   Under the tutelage of Cuban-born Alberto Villareal Penalver, chief percussionist for Conjunto Folklorico Nacional de Cuba (National Folkloric Performance Troupe of Cuba), Hagedorn has spent years studying the numerous rhythms of the Bata drums. Bata drumming is central to the rituals of Santer’a, a religious form that dates to the slave trade to Cuba from West Africa. A combination of the West African Yoruba tradition of worshiping several deities and the monotheistic rituals of Roman Catholicism, Santer’a emerged in the 19th century and today is practiced in many nations of the world.
   Hagedorn's research focuses on the intersection of religious drumming of the Santer’a rituals--"toques de santo"--and secular or theatrical performance. "You have to make a distinction between religious drumming and popular drumming," she says. Much of the repertoire of Conjunto Folklorico is based on religious drumming, but because the group is a folkloric ensemble, the drummers theatricalize their performances. In bringing the music to a larger audience, they transform sacred into secular.
   Hagedorn is interested in the way each style influences the other. "Now," she says, "practitioners of Santer’a, priests and priestesses known as santeros and santeras, will go to Conjunto Folklorico performances and get ideas for their own toques de santo from these Ôtarted-up' and very Vegas-style performances."
   That interaction between divine and mundane, in fact, is the basis of Hagedorn's first book, Divine Utterances: Religion and Folklore in the Performance of Afro-Cuban Santer’a, to be published in 2001 by Smithsonian Institution Press.
   Hagedorn's research often spills over into her course syllabi. A course on Gypsy or Roma music of Europe, for instance, enabled her to explore a new research interest in the classroom. She describes her teaching style as experimental, energetic and participatory. She tries to foster critical engagement, "so that students aren't simply reading the text, so that they're reading beyond it, in fact kind of interrogating the text."
   Being collegial with students is not something Hagedorn has to work at. "It's something that makes me feel more comfortable," she says. "I'm not the omniscient narrator. I don't know everything. And if I treat my students in a more collegial manner, I think they'll learn more effectively, and they'll feel more free to develop and to pursue more particular lines of inquiry or action."
   In raising her students' comfort level, she alsoŃnot incidentallyŃseems to raise her own.
   "For someone who is as deeply shy as I am, sometimes I can't believe the stuff I do in the classroom. I just forget the fact that I'm shy, and I just jump right in," she says. "Apparently I'm flourishing!" --Sarah Dolinar