Dr. Rodolfo Soldevilla Cornejo -- The Composer of the Baguio Colleges March and Hymn

September 30, 2018

BC-BCF-UC Founder Benjamin R. Salvosa and Rodolfo S. Cornejo were contemporary students at the University of the Philippines. Before Cornejo became famous, he was commissioned by the Founder to compose the music for then Baguio Colleges. The lyrics well reflect the Founders' vision for the first institution of higher education in Baguio City, in the Cordillera highlands, as relevant today as it was in 1946.

Rodolfo S. Cornejo, a composer, pianist and conductor, was born on the 15th of May, 1909, in Manila. His parents are Miguel Cornejo, Sr. and Crisanta Soldevilla. In 1949, he married Nieves Guerrero, a lyric soprano. The couple had five children.

Rodolfo S. Cornejo started piano lessons with Gelacio Reyes at age six. At age eight, he had his first recital, and he became the organist of the Pasay Catholic Church. He wrote his first composition, Glissando Waltz, at age 10. He also wrote and published a military march, Salute, at age 13. At 16, twenty-six of his works had been listed by the United Publishing Co.. While he was finishing his high school, he was already enrolled at the University of the Philippines (UP) Conservatory of Music.

At the UP Conservatory, he studied under Dr. Francisco Santiago, Nicanor Abelardo and Alexander Lippay. Barely three years after completing his high school, he obtained his teacher's diplomas in piano, science and composition. He taught for a year at UP, then left for the United States. He acquired a bachelor's degree in piano and theory at the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University in 1932. He won the Wesley Le Violette scholarship in composition, went on to complete his master's degree in 1933. He studied with Rudolf Ganz and Glenn Dillard Gunn.

In 1934, he returned to the Philippines, founded and directed the Manila Conservatory of Music. He again left for the US in 1939 to pursue doctorate studies in composition. He earned his doctorate degree in 1947 at the Neotarian College in Kansas City, USA. In his US sojourns, Cornejo was a soloist with various orchestras, such as the New York City Symphony Orchestra, National Orchestra Association, and many others. During World War II, he played at concerts for the Allied Armed Forces. In 1941, he became researcher and official composer of the Philippine government-in-exile. In 1945, the Chicago Musical College awarded him an honorary doctorate in music.

In the Philippines, he became director of the Cosmpolitan Colleges Conservatory of Music from 1948 to 1949. He also concertized. He wrote scores for twenty-seven films during his 10 years as musical director of Sampaguita Pictures. He is founding member of the League of Filipino Composers.

He wrote over 300 compositions. These ranged from classical to pop. His major works include The Season - Song Cycle (1932), A La Juventud Filipina (1935), Philippine Symphony No. 1 (1939), No.2 (1942), and No. 3 (1947) all for piano solo; Oriental Fantasy (1944) and Philippine Fantasy with Marimba Solo (1962). He wrote music for the ballets Ibong Adarna (1970) and Baile de Ayer (1974). His cantata Christ the Redeemer for soloists, narrator, mixed chorus and orchestra, premiered at the Philamlife Auditorium in 1977. He also wrote a musical A Glimpse of Philippine Life and Culture, which premiered at the Seattle Opera House in 1978. He is listed in the International Who's Who in Music.

Rodolfo S. Cornejo died in Manila on the 11th of August, 1991.

The Philippine composer Cornejo received his Teacher's Diploma in piano (1930) and Teacher's Diploma in science and composition (1930) from the Conservatory of Music, University of the Philippines.

He received his Bachelor of Music major in piano and theory (1932) from the Chicago Musical College of the Roosevelt University, Master of Music major in composition-conducting (1933), and Doctor of Music (honoris causa, 1954).

He received his Doctor of Philosophy major in composition from the Neotarian College of Philosophy in Kansas City (1947).

He served as pianist-director of a USO concert unit that entertained the Allied Forces at the E.T.O., the Marianas, and the Hawaiian Islands in World War II.

Since 1978 he held concerts in the United States and appeared as composer-conductor at the Seattle Opera House and the Seattle Playhouse.

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