Adelaida Reyes

adelaida reyes

April 25, 1930 ~ August 24, 2021

Adelaida Reyes passed away at her home after an extended illness in Fort Lee, NJ on August 24, 2021 at the age of 91. Throughout her career and as Professor Emerita at New Jersey City University, Professor Reyes led by example as an extraordinary scholar, humanitarian, and loving mentor to her students, her peers, and her family. Her generosity of spirit and intellect cannot be overstated.

Born in Manila, Philippines on April 25, 1930, Professor Reyes completed her undergraduate studies in music at St. Scholastica’s College, Manila, where she began work as a college lecturer immediately after graduation. During that period, she also worked as a music critic for the Philippine Evening News and The Manila Daily Bulletin, which earned her the attention of the Rockefeller Foundation. With the organization’s support, she was able to immigrate with her two young children to New York City, where she completed her M. Philosophy and Ph. D. at Columbia University while working multiple jobs to support her family. Her dissertation, “The Role of Music in the Interaction of Black Americans and Hispanos in New York City’s East Harlem,” was a groundbreaking work in ethnomusicology, nominated for the Bancroft Dissertation Price in 1975. It marked the beginning of a career devoted to shifting the paradigms of her disciplines through rigorous field work and incisive methodology, and carved out urban ethnomusicology as a vital sub-discipline. She would go on to extend such rigor to the study of music and migration, epitomized by her monograph, Songs of the Caged, Songs of the Free: Music and the Vietnamese Refugee Experience (1999). She continually fought against easy answers and neat categorizations, meeting the traumatic movements of peoples and cultures with interdisciplinary wisdom and humanitarian compassion. In doing so, Professor Reyes provided essential interventions into migration studies that will only become more important as globalization marches on.

Professor Reyes's career was also marked by her equally valuable work as a teacher and mentor. In addition to teaching at New Jersey City University until her formal retirement in 1997, she served as a visiting professor and research fellow in universities across the United States, UK and Europe, including Charles University, Columbia University, the Juilliard School, and the University of Oxford. Her lectures and informal discussions, in the classroom and as an honored member of the European Seminar in Ethnomusicology, the Music and Minorities Study Group of the International Council for Traditional Music, and the Society for Ethnomusicology, Mid-Atlantic Chapter (among others), have shaped and guided the paths of generations of students and colleagues across the world.

At home, Adelaida (“Dely” to her friends and family) freely offered up the same knowledge, good humor, and generosity to all members of her family. Her love was unshakable and unconditional, and she always took more pride in the accomplishments of others than she did in her own. She will be remembered for endless discussions of everything from critical theory to comedy at her dinner table, for compulsively feeding everyone who came through her doors to the point of bursting, and for her devotion to God, which manifested in lifelong charitable contributions to good works at home and abroad. Her intellectual drive, her faith and the enjoyment she took in the people she held dear, and all the words and thoughts and insight she had to offer the world, will be sorely missed. She is survived by her two children, Mia and Stephen Katigbak, her daughter-in-law, Sallie Steele, and her granddaughter, Kate Katigbak.

All are asked to Assemble Monday August 30th for the celebration of her funeral mass in the Main Madonna R.C. Church at 10:30 AM. For condolences, directions, or information call (201) 944-0100 or


Mass: August 30, 2021 10:30 am

Madonna R.C. Church
Across the Street From Funeral Home
Fort Lee, NJ 07024

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Memories Timeline


  1. My deepest condolences to the whole family. In my grad school days at NYU, Prof. Reyes was a wonderful visiting professor, and I learned so much from her pioneering work on the musics of cities, which she did as a real pathbreaker. She will be missed by a whole community of scholars. Robert L. Kendrick, University of Chicago

  2. My condolences to the family and friends. I was very fortunate to work with Adelaida in the Music and Minorities Study Group and to get to know her as a wonderful person and an excellent scholar. Her thoughts and ideas will guide us and next generations of ethnomusicologists.
    Rest in peace, dear Adelaida! I will never forget your words of wisdom.
    Alma Bejtullahu

  3. Only yesterday did I hear of the passing of Dely Reyes while I was at a Filipino gathering in Okinawa City. I did not know her personally but through her correspondence with Prof. Bienvenido Panganiban of UST and then as director his own music academy in Okinawa, incoming letters only dating from c.1960 to the mid-60s and after. Dely and he exchanged many letters and hers have survived in Bien's archive which is held at the Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts. In those days she usually signed her envelopes by the name Katigbak. I was the archivist who catalogued Bien's papers. Her letters show her to have been all that everyone else says about her, energetic, resourceful, and determined with an enormously powerful and original intellect. Bien Panganiban was also born in 1930, five days before she was. He died on February 15 this year. My dearest hope is that she used to keep her papers, especially her correspondence, and that those letters, if surviving, will be preserved in an academic archive in NJ or New York (perhaps Columbia). Prof. Tony (A.P.) Jenkins

  4. Condolences to Deli's family and to all those who worked with her. She was my professor at NYU for a semester in 1987, and gave a great seminar in urban ethnomusicology, a field in which she made outstanding contributions. She inspired and mentored me and so many others with whom she worked in NYC (especially at Columbia and NYU). She gave me good advice even after I finished at NYU (and she at Jersey City State), when I saw her at SEM meetings. I will miss her.

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