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Profile of John Philip Sousa



November 6, 1854, his father, John Antonio Sousa, was in the U.S. Marine Band and played the trombone; his mother was Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus. John Philip Sousa was the third of 10 children. He was married to Jane van Middlesworth Bellis.


Washington, DC


March 6, 1932

Also Known As:

He is popularly called "The March King" because of his many compositions for the marching band and also for pioneering band music. He was an American composer of marches, a conductor, performer and bandleader. He was a music education advocate and a firm supporter for composers' rights.

Type of Compositions:

He mainly wrote pieces for the marching band. He also wrote concert pieces, instrumental solos, operettas, overtures, suites, songs and pieces for trumpet and drum.


John Philip Sousa was very much influenced by his father; he grew up and was exposed to military band music during his formative years. He began taking voice lessons as well as instruction on several instruments including the alto horn, cornet, flute, piano and trombone in 1860. In 1875, after 8 years of being in the Marines, Sousa began performing as a violinist, going on tour and eventually landing positions as a theater orchestra conductor.

Notable Works:

Among his known works are "Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes," he conducted Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" on Broadway, he conducted "The President's Own," "Washington Post March," the operetta "El Capitan," and of course, "Stars and Stripes Forever," known as the official march of the United States.

Interesting Facts:

In 1880 he became the leader of the U.S. Marine Band. He transformed the Marine Band into The President's Own, making it a premier military band in the U.S. In 1892, Sousa resigned from his post and organized his own band. During this time, known bandleader Patrick Gilmore had passed away; later on, some of the members joined Sousa's band. Sousa's band had its first concert performance at the Stillman Music Hall in Plainfield, New Jersey on September 26, 1892. His band would go on tour to Europe in 1900, 1901, 1905 and on a World Tour in 1910.

Other Interesting Facts:

When Sousa was 13, he wanted to join a circus band. To thwart young Sousa's plan, his father enlisted him in the Marines. When World War 1 erupted in 1917, Sousa joined the U.S. Naval Reserve and became a lieutenant. The sousaphone was named after him; it was developed based on his specifications.

Music Samples and More Information:

  • Extensive list of Sousa's compositions and soundclips.
  • Transcript of "Who Was John Philip Sousa?" from the Think Tank show.
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