Centre for Ward Method Studies
Fr. Robert Skeris, Director
The Ward Method of music instruction is a progressive method of teaching elementary school children – through vocal instruction – music theory, composition, and conducting. The Method was developed by the foundress of the original School of Liturgical Music at The Catholic University of America in 1929, Justine Bayard Ward (1879-1975), to teach American Catholic school children the fundamentals of music which would enable them to sing the vast patrimony of musica sacra which is a part of the Roman Catholic Church’s tradition. The Ward Method is unique in that it has a basis in Gregorian chant, that “treasure of inestimable value” (Second Vatican Council, 1963).
Mrs Ward developed the Method in response to a request from Fr. Thomas E. Shields, chair of the first department of education at The Catholic University. Shields believed that from the earliest years, the child’s emotions must be developed to lead to the formation of worthy character. Writing in the Catholic Educational Review, he once said,
"The real foundations of character are not
to be found in the intellect, but in the emotions
and the will properly enlightened through the
intellect, and it is through music and art that
the imagination and the emotions may be
reached and effectively developed."
Throughout its history, the Catholic Church has promoted the arts. Knowing man to be composed of both body and spirit, the Church understands man’s need for sensible, tangible things to relate body and spirit. In the Ward Method children are exposed to truth and beauty through music so they will respond to emotional stimulus of a higher order.
The chief tenets of the Ward Method can be summarized in five points.
- The basic principle is that music is a fundamental element in the development of the intellect and the formation of character.
- The Ward Method correlates the study of music with the other subjects of the curriculum, with special attention to those aspects of music that foster appreciation of and participation in liturgical singing.
- Whilst the voice alone is the basis of the musical training imparted, foundations are laid for a deep and broad study of musical theory.
- The Ward Method consistently applies the pedagogical principle that the normal process of development is from content to form.
- The Method proceeds from germinal musical elements, through a series of easily graded developmental phases, toward the complex details involved in the artistic rendering of musical compositions.
Consequently, a typical Ward lesson of some twenty minutes’ duration will contain these elements :
- Vocal exercises (tone quality, timbre);
- Intonation (eye and ear training, pitch);
- Rhythm gestures and dictation;
- Staff notation;
- Original creative work oral and written;
- Songs with and without words.
Certification as a qualified Ward Method teacher requires successful completion of all four Ward courses:
- MUS 543-01 = Ward Book I
- MUS 543A-01 = Ward Book II
- MUS 543B-01 = Ward Book III
- MUS 543C-01 = Ward Book IV (Jr. High and High School)
- MUS 547-01 = Gregorian Chant Practicum I
- MUS 547A-01 = Gregorian Chant Practicum II
- MUS 547B-01 = Gregorian Chant Schola