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Robert Ward (September 13, 1917 – April 3, 2013) was an American composer.

Early work and education

Ward was born in Cleveland, Ohio, one of five children of the owner of a moving and storage company. He sang in church choirs and local opera theaters when he was a boy.[1] His earliest extant compositions date to 1934,[2] 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.

During his military service Ward met Mary Raymond Benedict, a Red Cross recreation worker. They married on June 19, 1944, and had five children; Melinda, Jonathon, Mark, Johanna and Tim.

Major works

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.

After the success of The Crucible, Ward received several commissions for ceremonial works, such as Hymn and Celebration in 1962, Music for a Celebration in 1963, Festive Ode in 1966, Fiesta Processional in 1966, and Music for a Great Occasion in 1970. During those years he also wrote the cantata, Sweet Freedom's Song, in 1965; the Fifth Symphony in 1976; a Piano Concerto in 1968, which was commissioned by the Powder River Foundation for the soloist Marjorie Mitchell; a Saxophone Concerto in 1984; and the operas The Lady from Colorado in 1964, Claudia Leqare in 1977, Abelard and Heloise in 1981, Minutes till Midnight in 1982, and Roman Fever in 1993 (based on the short story of the same name by Edith Wharton). He also wrote chamber music, such as the First String Quartet of 1966 and the Raleigh Divertimento of 1985.

His work has been championed by such conductors as Igor Buketoff, who recorded the 3rd and 6th symphonies.

Later work

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.

After a period of failing health, Ward died in a Durham retirement home on April 3, 2013, at the age of 95.[3]

Selected works

Ward's music is largely published by Highgate Press, E.C. Schirmer, Associated Music Publishers, Peer International, Merrymount Music Press, C.F. Peters and Vireo Press.

  • He Who Gets Slapped, original title: Pantaloon, Opera in 3 acts (1955); libretto by Bernard Stambler after the play by Leonid Andreyev
  • The Crucible, Opera in 4 acts (1961); libretto by Bernard Stambler after the play by Arthur Miller; recipient of the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Music
  • The Lady from Colorado (1964); revised in 1993 as Lady Kate; libretto by Bernard Stambler after the novel by Homer Croy
  • Claudia Legare, Opera in 4 acts (1977); libretto by Bernard Stambler after the play Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
  • Abelard and Heloise, Music Drama in 3 acts (1981); libretto by Jan Hartman
  • Minutes Till Midnight, Opera in 3 acts (1982); libretto by Daniel Lang
  • Lady Kate, Opera in 2 acts (1964, 1993); 2nd version of The Lady from Colorado; libretto by Bernard Stambler after the novel by Homer Croy
  • Roman Fever, Opera in 1 act (1993); libretto by Roger Brunyate after the story by Edith Wharton
  • A Friend of Napoleon
  • Slow Music (1937)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1941–1942)
  • Adagio and Allegro (1944)
  • Jubilation, an Overture (1946); also for concert band
  • Symphony No. 2 (1947)
  • Symphony No. 3 (1950)
  • Euphony (1954)
  • Prairie Overture (1957); original version for concert band
  • Symphony No. 4 (1958)
  • Divertimento (1966)
  • Festive Ode (1966)
  • Hymn and Celebration (1962)
  • Invocation and Toccata (1975)
  • Sonic Structure (1980)
  • By the Way of Memories, Nocturne (1987)
  • Andante and Scherzo for string orchestra
  • Concertino for string orchestra
Concert band
  • Jubilation, an Overture (1946); original version for orchestra
  • Prairie Overture (1957); also for orchestra
  • Night Fantasy (1962)
  • Fiesta Processional (1966)
  • Antiphony (1973)
  • Four Abstractions (1981)
  1. Jagged Rhythms in Fast Tempo
  2. Color Masses and Luminous Lines in Dark Blue
  3. Curves and Points of Light in Motion
  4. Interweaving Lines
  • Concerto for piano and orchestra (1968)
  • Concerto for tenor saxophone and orchestra (1984)
  • Dialogues for violin, cello and orchestra (1986)
  • Concerto for violin and orchestra (1993, revised 1994)
  • Dialogues, a Triple Concerto for violin, cello, piano and orchestra (1986–2002)
Chamber music
  • Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano (1950)
  • Fantasia for 3 trumpets, 4 horns, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba and timpani (1957)
  • Arioso and Tarantelle for cello or viola and piano (1960)
  • Raleigh Divertimento, Woodwind Quintet (1986)
  • Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (1990)
  • Appalachian Ditties and Dances for violin and piano (1991)
  • Bath County Rhapsody, Piano Quintet (1991)
  • Serenade for Mallarmé for flute, viola, cello and piano (1991)
  • Night under the Big Sky, Nocturne based on themes from Lady Kate for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and piano (1998)
  • Quintet for oboe and string quartet (2006)
  • String Quartet No. 1
  • Echoes of America, Trio for clarinet, cello and piano
  • The Promised Land (On Jordan's Stormy Banks), Chorale Prelude for organ, with optional congregational participation (1977)
  • Celebration of God in Nature, Suite for organ (1979)
  • Lamentation and Scherzo for piano (1984)
  • Sorrow of Mydath for voice and piano (1940); words by John Masefield
  • Jonathon and the Gingery Snare for narrator and orchestra (1949); words by Bernard Stambler
  • As I Watched the Ploughman Ploughing for voice and piano (1951); words by Walt Whitman
  • Rain Has Fallen All the Day for voice and piano (1951); words by James Joyce
  • Vanished for voice and piano (1951); words by Emily Dickinson
  • Sacred Songs for Pantheists for soprano and piano or orchestra (1951); words by Gerard Manley Hopkins, James Stephens and Emily Dickinson
  • Love's Seasons, Song Cycle for high voice and piano (1994); words from Fatal Interview by Edna St Vincent Millay
  • Hush'd Be the Camps Today (May 4th, 1865) for mixed chorus and orchestra (1938); words by Walt Whitman
  • With rue my heart is laden for mixed chorus a cappella (1949); words by A. E. Housman
  • Concord Hymn for mixed chorus and piano (1949) or for mixed chorus a cappella (1979); words by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Earth Shall Be Fair, Cantata for mixed chorus (or double chorus), children's chorus (or soprano solo) and orchestra (or organ) (1960); Biblical text
  • Let the Word Go Forth for mixed chorus, brass, harp and string orchestra (1965); words from the inaugural address of John F. Kennedy
  • Sweet Freedom's Song: A New England Chronicle, Cantata for soprano, baritone, narrator, mixed chorus and orchestra (1965)
  • Canticles of America: A Psalm of Life, Symphony No. 5 for soprano, baritone, narrator, mixed chorus and orchestra (1976); words by Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  1. Behold, America
  2. A Psalm of Life
  3. Hymn to the Night
  4. All Peoples of the Globe Together Sail
  • Images of God, a Sacred Service including a Mystery Play for minister, soprano, baritone, mixed chorus, organ and players (1988–1989)


  1. Kenneth Kreitner, Robert Ward: A Bio-Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press (1988): 3
  2. Kreitner, ibid: 12. Six works from 1934 are listed, compositions which "were completed (or nearly completed), but never formally performed. ... All manuscripts are at Duke University."
  3. "Composer, educator Robert Ward dies in Durham" by David Menconi, The Charlotte Observer, April 3, 2013

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