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Robert Ward

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Robert Ward


Robert Eugene Ward (13 September 1917, Cleveland, Ohio – 3 April 2013, Durham, N.C.) was an American composer.

Ward sang in church choirs and local opera theaters when he was a boy. His earliest extant compositions date to 1934, at a time he was attending John Adams High School, from which he graduated in 1935. After that, Ward attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where his composition teachers were Bernard Rogers, Howard Hanson and Edward Royce. Ward received a fellowship and attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York from 1939 to 1942, where he studied composition with Frederick Jacobi, orchestration with Bernard Wagenaar, and conducting with Albert Stoessel and Edgar Schenkman. In the summer of 1941 he studied under Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Center in Massachusetts.

From his student days to the end of World War II, Ward produced about forty compositions, of which eleven he later withdrew. Most of those early works are small scale, songs and pieces for piano or chamber ensembles. He completed his First Symphony in 1941, which won the Juilliard Publication Award the following year. Around that time, Ward also wrote a number of reviews and other articles for the magazine Modern Music and served on the faculty of Queens College.

In February 1942 Ward joined the U.S. Army, and attended the Army Music School at Fort Myer, being assigned the military occupational specialty of band director. At Fort Riley, Kansas, he wrote a major part of the score to a musical revue called The Life of Riley. Ward was assigned to the 7th Infantry and sent to the Pacific. For the 7th Infantry Band he wrote a march, and for its dance band he wrote at least two jazz compositions. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service during a Japanese attack on the island of Attu, and he and his band were cited for outstanding service during their tour of the Pacific.

Ward earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service in the Aleutian Islands. During his military service Ward managed to compose two serious orchestral compositions, Adagio and Allegro, first performed in New York in 1944, and Jubilation: An Overture, which was written mostly on Okinawa, Japan, in 1945, and was premiered at Carnegie Hall by the National Orchestral Association the following spring.

After being discharged from military service at the end of the war, Ward returned to Juilliard, earning postgraduate certificate in 1946 and immediately joining the faculty, teaching there until 1956. He served as an associate in music at Columbia University from 1946 to 1948.

Ward wrote his Second Symphony, dedicated to his wife, in 1947, while living in Nyack, New York. It was premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Kindler. This symphony was quite popular for a few years, in part thanks to Eugene Ormandy playing it with the Philadelphia Orchestra several times and even taking it on tour to Carnegie Hall in New York and Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.

Andrew Stiller, in his article on Ward for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, describes Ward's musical style as deriving "largely from Hindemith, but also shows the considerable influence of Gershwin".

Ward conducted the Doctors Orchestral Society of New York from 1949 to 1955, wrote his Third Symphony and his First Sonata for Violin and Piano in 1950, the Sacred Songs for Pantheists in 1951, and was music director of the Third Street Music School Settlement from 1952 to 1955, and wrote the Euphony for Orchestra in 1954. He left Juilliard in 1956 to become Executive Vice-President of Galaxy Music Corporation and Managing Editor of High Gate Press in New York, positions he maintained until 1967. Ward wrote his Fourth Symphony in 1958, the Prairie Overture in 1957, the cantata Earth Shall Be Fair and the Divertimento in 1960.

Ward wrote his first opera to a libretto by Bernard Stambler, He Who Gets Slapped, and it was premiered in 1956. His next opera, The Crucible, based on Arthur Miller's play, premiered in 1961, became Ward's best known work. For it Ward received the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Music. It is frequently produced around the world.

In 1967, Ward became Chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. He held this post until 1975, when he stepped down to serve as a member of the composition faculty for five more years. In 1978 he came to Duke University as a visiting professor, and there he remained as Mary Duke Biddle Professor of Music from 1979 to 1987. In the fall of 1987, he retired from Duke University as Professor Emeritus, and continued to live and compose in Durham, North Carolina. His most recent composition is In Praise of Science, which premiered at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of Syracuse University's Life Science Complex on November 7, 2008.

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