Not only a composer, but also a teacher and performing artist, Lucrecia R. Kasilag
was named National Artist in Music in 1989. She fused Filipino ethnic music with Western music, using indigenous instruments in orchestral productions. She has over 250 compositions, and, a leader in music education, she is considered the “First Lady of Philippine Music.”
Lucrecia Roces Kasilag was born on August 31, 1918 in San Fernando, La Union. It was her mother, Asuncion Roces-Kasilag, who introduced her, together with her siblings, to music. Among Kasilag’s early piano teachers were Doña Concha Cuervo and Doña Pura Lacson-Villanueva. A bright student, she graduated from Paco Elementary High School as valedictorian in 1930, then from the Philippine Women’s University, also as valedictorian, in 1933. She continued her education at the PWU and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Moreover, she took lessons in Music at St. Scholastica’s College, where she was a student of Sister Baptista Battig. In 1939, Kasilag received her Music Teacher’s Diploma from SSC. She then went on to teach piano and music theory at SSC, and then at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music from 1946 to 1947. After that, she returned to PWU to teach.
In 1949, Kasilag received her Bachelor of Music degree at the PWU. Having received a PWU fellowship, she then pursued graduate studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York under a Fulbright Travel Grant in September of the same year. She later received an Eastman School of Music fellowship, and studied theory under Dr. Allen I. McHose and composition under Dr. Wayne Barlow. She completed her M.A. in 1950.
Back in the Philippines, Kasilag became Dean of the PWU College of Music and Fine Arts in 1953. In 1957, she put together the Bayanihan Folk Arts Center, which undertook research and organized theatrical performances. Later, she became Chairperson of the Philippine Society for Music Education in 1971, then Chairperson of the Asian Composer’s League in 1975. In 1977, she retired from her position as Dean and became Dean Emeritus of the PWU College of Music and Fine Arts.
Kasilag has also served organizations like NAMCYA, the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company, and the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In addition, she has held other positions including Director of the Center for Arts and Humanities of the PWU, honorary adviser to the Asian Arts Festival, Chairperson of the League of Filipino Composers, president and artistic director for the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and three years as special consultant of the Office of the President under the Aquino administration.
Her major works include:
- Love Songs
- Legend of the Sarimanok
- Philippine Scenes
- Fantasie on a 4-Note Theme
- East Meets Jazz Ethnika
Among her awards and honors are:
- 1975 – Doctor of Music, Honoris Causa, from the Centro Escolar University
- 1980 – Doctor of Law, Honoris Causa, from the PWU
- 1981 – Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, from St. John’s University in New York
- 1989 – The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Awardee for Culture and the Arts