I received word yesterday that the composer and pianist David Ward-Steinman has died. Dr. Ward-Steinman was a teacher of mine at San Diego State University and one of the first people who encouraged me to compose music. My first memories of him was walking into his office and showing him some early, early works of mine (works I’d never let anyone know about today). “The fugue is better than the prelude,” he said before urging me to submit them both in my portfolio for entrance into SDSU’s composition program.
A couple years later he was my instructor for 20th century music. I was blown away by his ability to sight read anything on the piano, and he would often tell the class about his time studying with Nadia Boulanger. That semester he taught me the valuable lesson of trusting my ears no matter what the printed page may say.
Dr. Ward-Steinman was a powerful influence at SDSU: he designed the comprehensive musicianship curriculum, was a teacher to almost every music student in the program, and mentored dozens of student composers. In addition to being their teacher, Dr. Ward-Steinman would often champion their works to the school’s ensemble directors. “If you wrote something for orchestra, David would make sure you got at least a reading,” I was told by one of his fellow professors.
When I studied with him it was at the end of his career at SDSU, and I only worked with him for a couple years. Nevertheless, his instruction remained with me for many years, and his influence could be felt every day on campus—even years after he had retired and accepted a position at Indiana University. He will be fondly remembered by many.
David Ward-Steinman is survived by his wife, Patrice Madura Ward-Steinman, Jacobs professor of music education, two children and three grandchildren.
The funeral service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, at First United Methodist Church, 219 E. Fourth St., Bloomington. Visitation will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 17, at Allen Funeral Home, 4155 S. Old State Road 37, Bloomington.