You have probably heard "The Stars and Stripes Forever" or "The Thunderer" in your school band or at different Marine Band celebratory performances. However, most people don't know the person behind these marches. Join us as we read more about John Philip Sousa and celebrate his birthday!
John Philip Sousa was born in Washington DC on November 6, 1854. He began studying music theory and playing violin at a young age. At the age of 12, his dad enlisted Sousa as an apprentice in the United States Marine Band. After a brief period of time away, he returned to the band in 1880 and spent 12 years as a director and conductor until his death in 1932.
John Philip Sousa's signature style and artistic knowledge elevated the American Marine Band to another level. The seventeenth Marine Director is remembered for his immense contribution that gave the Marine Band the artistic culture and recognition it enjoys. He wrote his march "The Gladiator" and received his first acclaim for this march in 1886. The talented composer continued to receive ever-increasing attention for national marches such as "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and "Semper Fidelis."
His vision for the Marine Band included taking the ensemble on tour across America. President Benjamin Harrison honored Sousa's request for a tour in 1891. He officially sanctioned the first tour, a marine tradition that has become an annual routine, except during crises and war.
On November 6, the Marine Corps Band remembers John Phillip Sousa with a concert at the grave site. The now-longtime celebration to solidify John Philip Sousa's legacy in the military began on November 6 on his 89th birthday in the year 1944. However, John Philip Sousa had already died in 1932 at the age of 78.
The Sousa Band Fraternal Society agreed to meet every November 6 to celebrate his life. They agreed to meet at Sousa's grave at the Congressional Cemetery for the first time on November 6, 1945. In later years, the society passed the tradition to the Marine Band to celebrate their "March King" and help his legacy live on to eternity. Sousa also has a Marine Barracks named after him.