Roque Cordero was born in Panama, Republic of Panama, August 16, 1917. After studying in his own country, and founding what became the National Orchestra of Panama, he came to the USA with a nine-month scholarship to study music education at the University of Minnesota. There he met Dimitri Mitropoulos who, after looking at the score of his first orchestral work, gave him a scholarship for four years of study with Ernst Krenek, at Hamline University, where he graduated, magna cum laude, in 1947. Returning to his country in 1950, he was Director of the National Institute of Music, for 11 years and conductor of the National Orchestra for 2 years, before accepting the position of Assistant Director of the Latin American Music Center and Professor of Composition at Indiana University, in Bloomington, Indiana, for 3 years. After another 3 years as Music Editor for Peer/Southern Music, in New York City, he was appointed Professor of Composition at Illinois State University, in Normal, Illinois, where he taught for 27 years, until his retirement. He is Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, at Illinois State.
Cordero gained international recognition when his Second Symphony won the Second Prize in the Latin American Music Festival of Caracas, Venezuela, in 1957. His Violin Concerto, recorded by the Detroit Symphony, with Sanford Allen, soloist, and Paul Freeman conducting, received the 1974 Koussevitzky International Recording Award. His Third String Quartet received the Chamber Music Award in Costa Rica, in 1977. The author of four String Quartets, four Symphonies, two Piano Concertos and many music chamber works, he has received commissions from the Koussevitzky and Coolidge Foundations, the Caracas and Rio de Janeiro Festivals, the Kennedy Center, the Peoria and Cincinnati Symphonies, the Chicago Sinfonietta, the Illinois Arts Council, the University of Alabama and Illinois State University.
He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for musical creation, in 1949, an Honorary Doctor’s Degree from Hamline University, in 1966, and the Grand Cross of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, from Panama, in 1982. He is Honorary Member of Colegio de Compositores Latinoamericanos de Música de Arte.
He has appeared as guest conductor in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and in the United States.
His biography appears in Americas, Washington, DC, June 1958; Revista Musical Chilena, Santiago, May-June 1960; Rieman’s Musik Lexicon, Hamburg, 1972; Vinton’s Dictionary of Contemporary Music, New York, 1974; Behague’s Music in Latin America: An Introduction, New York, 1979; The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London, 1980; Panameños Ilustres, Panama, 1988; Contemporary Composers, St. James Press, London, 1993, and in many other publications. Dies in USA 2008