Acclaimed NC Composer Robert Ward Dies

Apr 3, 2013

NC Composer Robert Ward
Credit Robert Willett / News & Observer

The acclaimed classical composer and Durham resident Robert Ward has died. He was 95 years old.

Ward was known and honored for his contributions to the world of classical music and was chancellor of the UNC School of the Arts (then called N.C. School of the Arts) from 1967 to 1974 before joining Duke University as a music professor.  He composed many symphonies and operas over his lifetime, including an operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1962.

In August 1999, Ward sat down with WUNC's Keith Weston as part of a State of Things broadcast where the discussion ranged from the composer's recent works and recordings by North Carolina ensembles to his years as a WWII bandleader while in the Army in Europe and his time as president of the North Carolina School of the Arts. (Listen to this interview above.)

In 2011, Ward was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors. At his induction, current UNC School of the Arts Chancellor John Mauceri called him “part of the Golden Age of opera in our country” and lauded him for his leadership of the UNC School of the Arts. The school’s founding president, Vittorio Giannini, passed away only a year and a half after the school launched, at which point Ward assumed Chancellorship.  In a statement about the event, Mauceri also said “More than anyone, Robert Ward took the great idea of a publicly funded, stand-alone arts university and made it a reality, forging essential relationships and creating the mechanisms by which UNCSA, and schools that have emulated UNCSA, function.”

Ward was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1917 and studied classical music as a child. He studied with Aaron Copland at the Tanglewood Music Festival and attended The Julliard School from 1939-41 before becoming a bandleader in the U.S. Army. Ward received multiple Guggenheim Fellowships and served on many boards of directors.