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Justine Ward and the genesis of the Ward method of music education

Richard Ramon Bunbury, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The Ward method of music education was created in the early part of the twentieth century to promote the use of liturgical chant by teaching children vocal music reading skills. Its author, Justine Bayard Ward, was a newcomer to the Catholic Church and to the field of education, yet her approach proved successful and spread throughout the United States, Europe and other parts of the world. The goal of this dissertation is twofold: to document the influences that led the author to write and promote her method, and to trace its origins from pedagogical and notational antecedents. The ancient tradition of choral training in the Church, Wards upbringing, her musical training and aesthetic inclinations, and her zeal in furthering the liturgical and musical reforms of Pius X fostered the ideal environment for the creation of the Ward method. Evidence shows, however, that the materials and procedures were largely appropriations of pre-existing ideas. For example, the work in sight-singing was taken from the Galin-Paris-Chevé school, which flourished in nineteenth-century France, and the educational philosophy originated from her publisher, Rev. Thomas Shields. Ward's mentor, Rev. John Young, S.J., had combined bel canto vocal technique with Chevé exercises and, under Shields's guidance, Ward reshaped it. Separation of musical elements, principally rhythm and pitch, and graduated exercises were key ingredients Ward inherited from Chevé. Students learned accurate pitch discrimination through daily sight-singing drills where numbers corresponded to the sung solfège syllables in moveable “do.” Justine Ward's contributions lie in skillfully incorporating the Chevé sight-singing drills, Young's vocal training, and Shields' theories of aesthetics and childhood development to attain her goal of teaching children music of quality. The repertoire consisted of classical melodies, European folk tunes, and Gregorian chant. The Ward method spread through several avenues. Catholic Education Press began systematic publication of textbooks in the 1910s. Leaders in Catholic education were won over by demonstrations led by Justine Ward. More importantly, the Ward method spread through teacher training courses. It evolved in subsequent publications largely due to her recasting the material to reflect trends in music education and newer rhythmic theories in Gregorian chant.

Subject Area

Music education|Religious education|Music|Education history|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Bunbury, Richard Ramon, "Justine Ward and the genesis of the Ward method of music education" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3027182.