Robert Ward

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Biography

Robert Eugene Ward (1917-2013), composer, conductor, administrator, educator, and publishing executive was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 13, 1917. He studied theory, orchestration, and piano as a youth and began composing in high school where his early musical influences include Debussy, Ravel, Hindemith, Stravinsky, and jazz. Ward studied composition with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson at the Eastman School of Music from 1935 through 1939. He then studied composition with Frederick Jacobi and conducting with Albert Stoessel and Edgar Schenkman at the Juilliard School from1939 through 1941. Additional studies in composition occurred with Aaron Copland at the Tanglewood Music Festival in 1940 before entering the military as a bandleader in the US Army from 1942 through 1946.

While serving in the Pacific theater of operations Ward met Mary Benedict, his wife of sixty-two years with whom he had five children. After the war he returned to the Juilliard School and received his Artist Certificate in 1946. Ward taught at Juilliard from 1947 to 1956 where he also headed its development office, and at Columbia University from 1946 to 1958. He received three Guggenheim Fellowships (1950, 1951, 1966), and was director of the Third Street Music Settlement from 1952 to 1955.

The composer of music in a wide variety of musical genres, Ward’s most enduring and well-known work, The Crucible, (1961) won the Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Music Critics’ Circle Citation Award in 1962 and was composed during his tenure as Executive Vice-President/Managing Editor of Galaxy Music Corporation, a position he held from 1956 to 1966. Ward served on numerous boards of directors, and was a member of various organizations such as the American Symphony Orchestra League, the National Opera Institute, the Rockefeller Fund for Music, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Ward was president of the North Carolina School of the Arts from 1967 to 1974 and was the Mary Duke Biddle Professor of Music at Duke University from 1979 to 1989. His achievements in composition have garnered four honorary doctorates; from the Peabody Conservatory, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Duke University, and North Carolina State University.

Ward’s catalog of compositions includes eight operas, seven symphonies, three concertos, numerous shorter works for orchestra, music for wind ensemble, compositions for a variety of instrumental chamber groups, two cantatas, various genres for vocal ensembles, and songs for solo voice with accompaniment, among others. His eclectic compositional methods facilitate musical comprehension and reflect various styles used throughout the history of Western art music and, especially in his vocal works, Ward derives both melodic and rhythmic constructions by adapting the syntactic properties of the texts. In this way he achieves a synthesis or internal union of the various expressive elements, thus creating a singular artistic voice within a unified musical structure. Ward’s music is consciously nationalistic and expresses concerns for social and political issues and his interpretation of American idealism.

He died in 2013.

 

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