Lucrecia Roces Kasilag was born on August 31, 1918 in San Fernando, La Union. Her mother encouraged her interest in music.
She went on to gain scholastic achievements from elementary until she graduated. She was a valedictorian and a Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English in Philippine Women s University. She received her Music Teacher’s Diploma at St. Scholastica’s College and 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 and 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 where she received her Music fellowship. She studied theory under Dr. Allen I. McHose and composition under Dr. Wayne Barlow and completed her M.A. in 1950.
With all that she learned from her studies, she applied it with fervor when she came back in the Philippines. Kasilag then 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. In 1989, she garnered The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Awardee for Culture and the Arts. She 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.
Kasilag, known as the First Lady of Philippine Music, was named National Artist for Music in 1989. Her prolific body of work amounted to over 250 compositions that include folk songs, opera and orchestral works. Some of her major works were “Love Songs,” “Legend of the Sarimanok,” “Sisa,” “Philippine Scenes” and “East Meets Jazz Ethnika.” She was the former head of the Asian Composers League and continued to create music until this year.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, actress Boots Anson-Roa recalled about five years ago, Mowelfund honored her at the CCP. She performed her unique composition “Basura Rap” with Andrew E with such confidence, skill and poise her even in her weakening health condition. Pianist Cecile Licad, who is currently based in New York considered her years at the CCP, “..was the golden age—the growth of all the arts, especially music.”
Her death is extremely a sad news for the Philippine Art Scene but rest assured that her music will live on in the hearts and minds of Filipinos across the globe.