The Kennedy Center

Robert Ward



Biography


 American composer and conductor Robert Ward (b. 1917) is best known for his 1962 Pulitzer-prize-winning opera, The Crucible, based on the Arthur Miller play about the seventeenth century witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Ward also wrote seven other operas, seven symphonies, four concertos, and numerous shorter works. He became chancellor of the North Carolina School of the Arts and later became a professor at Duke University, a position from which he retired in 1987.
 
Ward began his musical studies at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. After serving as an army band director during World War II, he graduated from, and received a teaching position at, The Juilliard School. Later, he studied composition with Aaron Copland at the Berkshire Music Center (now Tanglewood Music Center) in Massachusetts.
 
Even as a student, Ward had no trouble getting performances for his compositions. By the time he and a Juilliard colleague wrote their first opera, Ward was already well known for his orchestral works. His opera Pantaloon (1955, retitled He Who Gets Slapped in 1959) was well received and led to a commission from New York City Opera for The Crucible (1961), the work on which his reputation is almost entirely based. None of his later operas was able to replicate that success.
 
Ward's style of composition derives largely from German composer Paul Hindemith but also reflects the considerable influence of American composer George Gershwin. In his operas, Ward modifies this basic style to add references to appropriate local color, such as the imitations of seventeenth century hymns that appear in The Crucible. The operas, as well as many shorter vocal works, reflect a concern for social and political issues.

Sources: Oxford Dictionary of Music
               Grove Music Online
               www.robertwardcomposer.com
 
Robert Ward