John Philip Sousa

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“The March King” is commonly used to refer to the great American composer John Philip Sousa. Sousa did the majority of his work during the Romantic era and was highly known for his American military marches. He greatly affected the expansion of American musical taste. At the end of the 19th century, when someone thought about marching music, the great bandmaster’s name was automatically thought of. He composed more than 136 marches and at one point in his life, he was considered one of the most popular musicians in the world.

John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C. on November 6, 1854. He was the oldest of ten children and was greatly influenced by his father’s experience in the United States Marine Band. Sousa began music lessons at the age of six and later studied violin, piano, winds, and brass. By the age of 13, he could play a variety of instruments and his father enlisted him in the Marine Band. At 18 he became director of the orchestra at a variety house in Washington and later led orchestras for a comedy troupe and for Morgan's Living Pictures.

In 1876, Sousa moved to Philadelphia and played first violin for the Centennial Exhibition orchestra. Taking his interest in conducting and using his natural understanding of composition, he furthered his talents working as an arranger for two music publishers in Philadelphia, J. M. Stoddart and Co., and W. F. Shaw Publishing Co. In addition to private teaching, he directed an amateur opera company. These experiences in Philadelphia helped him develop a reputation and his name started to became better known. With his new resume, he returned to Washington D.C. with his wife, Jane Van Middlesworth Bellis in 1880. Upon his return, Sousa became the director of the United States Marine Band. Corps officials were extremely impressed with his work in Philadelphia. The Sousas would have three children: John Philip, Jr., Jane Priscilla, and Helen. In the 12 years of his tenure, he reorganized the band by...
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