Remembering Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer Robert Ward

Robert Ward, the American composer who won the Pulitzer Prize for bringing Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible to the opera stage, died early Wednesday of natural causes. The composer, who was also a National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honoree, was 95 years old. He had been living independently until early this year in a retirement home in Durham, N.C., according to his son Mark Ward, the assistant principal cellist of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, who confirmed the death to NPR Music.

Born in Cleveland in 1917, the elder Ward was an Army bandmaster in the Pacific theater during World War II. His Second Symphony was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and premiered three years after the end of the war. A onetime student of Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he was trained at the Eastman and Juilliard schools. Ward went on to a distinguished academic career that included a decade of teaching composition at Juilliard, five years as president of the North Carolina School of the Arts and a decade as a professor at Duke University.

In October 2011, Ward was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Opera Honors in an event hosted by NPR’s Nina Totenberg in Washington; the NEA cited in particular Ward’s “concern for social and political issues of the times as well as his interpretation of American idealism.” In the 1950’s and 60’s, Ward was also awarded three Guggenheim Fellowships for his work.

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