CLAREMONT, Calif. - Katharine Hagedorn, originally from New Jersey and a graduate of Governor Livingston High School, died at the age of 52, at her home, on Nov. 12, 2013, after a long battle with cancer.
Hagedorn was a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif. since 1993. She oversaw the Balinese Gamelan ensemble and taught courses in gender in music, performance traditions of the African diaspora and protest music.
She became a Santeria priestess, a Cuba-based religion, after years of studying sacred bata drums. As a graduate student at Brown University, she attended a performance of an Afro-Cuban ensemble of drummers and dancers, that changed her life. She traveled to Cuba, studied with masters of sacred bata drums, and later became initiated into Santeria as a priestess. "My wide-angle lens of folkloric performance had suddenly zoomed in to the close-up focus of personally experienced religious performance," she wrote in her 2001 book, "Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santeria."
Hagedorn received her undergraduate degree from Tufts University, with a triple major in Spanish, Russian and English studies with a minor in classical piano. She earned her master's degree in international relations from John Hopkins University and a master's and doctorate from Brown University in ethnomusicology.
Hagedorn is survived by her husband, Terry Ryan; son, Gabriel; her parents, Fred and Grace Hagedorn; and her sister Martha Hagedorn-Krass.