“Jazz will endure just as long people hear it through their feet instead of their brains.” –John Philip Sousa
I can’t think of any one who would make a better Thought of the Day Bio subject on Election Day 2012 than John Philip Sousa. He practically wrote the soundtrack for American patriotism AND he’s got a great mustache. What’s not to like?
He was born on this day in Washington, DC, USA in 1854. Today is the 158th anniversary of his birth.
He started his music career playing the violin, and soon added voice, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone and alto horn to the mix. After John Phillip tried to run away to join a circus band, his father, John Antonio Sousa, “enlisted him in the Marines at age 13 as an apprentice…”[John Philip Sousa] in 1867.
He wrote and published his first composition “Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes” in 1875 and was honorably discharged from the Marines two years later. Sousa “began performing (on violin), touring and eventually conducting theater orchestras. Conducted Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.” [Ibid] While rehearsing Pinafore he met his wife Jane van Middlesworth Bellis.
In 1880 he returned to the US Marine Band as the Band’s leader, a post he kept for next 12 years. Sousa conducted
“The President’s Own”, serving under presidents Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Arthur and Harrison. After two successful but limited tours with the Marine Band in 1891 and 1892, promoter David Blakely convinced Sousa to resign and organize a civilian concert band. [Ibid]
Sousa wrote his own operetta, El Capitan in 1895.
He wrote 136 marches including Semper Fidelis March, King Cotton, Fairest of the Fair, Hands Across the Sea, And Stars and Stripes Forever — which he wrote in 1896. (In 1987 Congress proclaimed it the National March of the United States)
He designed a new type of bass tuba called the sousaphone. The Sousa Band toured throughout the world.
During World War I, Sousa joins the US Naval Reserve at age 62. He is assigned the rank of lieutenant and paid a salary of $1 per month…. After the war, Sousa continued to tour with his band. He championed the cause of music education, received several honorary degrees and fought for composers’ rights, testifying before Congress in 1927 and 1928.[Ibid]
Sousa died at the age of 77 in Reading, Pennsylvania after conducting a rehearsal. Fittingly, the last piece he conducted was Stars and Stripes Forever.
Click HERE for a page with lots of audio clips of Sousa marches.