Adelaida Reyes


10:30 am
Monday, August 30, 2021
Madonna R.C. Church
Across the Street From Funeral Home
Fort Lee, New Jersey, United States

Obituary of Adelaida Reyes

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

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