Music is the world’s great uniter. A song can do more than words ever could. John Philip Sousa showed this clearly throughout his life. When one is gifted with such talent as he was, they cannot ignore it. Music changed Sousa’s life forever. Music brought many opportunities and experiences into Sousa’s life, and his legacy continues to inspire musicians everywhere. John’s life as a young boy was filled with promise and was desirable. He was born on November 6, 1854, in Washington, D. C. , close to the army base where his father worked.
He was the third of ten children born to John Anthony Sousa and his ife Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus. Later in life Sousa said, “From childhood I was passionately fond of music and wanted to be a musician. I have no recollection of any real desire ever to be anything else. ” Sousa wanted to become a musician all his life, but unlike many people, he followed through with his dreams. He put them into action. Sousa began to study violin under the instruction of John Esputa when he was six years old. He also studied harmony and musical composition with George Felix Benkert at a very young age.
Sousa was born with a gift most musicians wish for, absolute pitch. This means that he could ecognize a pitch by either hearing it, or seeing it, without the use of the other. Sousa also studied a variety of other instruments during his childhood including voice, piano, flute, cornet, baritone horn, trombone, and alto horn. When Sousa was 13, he wanted to join a circus band, but his father wished against that. He enlisted him in the United States Marine Corps to prevent his son’s foolish wish from becoming a reality. The Sousa’s raised their children as Christians.
This translated into John Philip Sousa’s music quite prominently. He said later in life, “Any composer who is gloriously conscious that he is a omposer must believe that he receives his inspiration from a source higher than himself. ” (John Philip Sousa). This shows that he put his belief in a higher power into his music, and does not believe that any composer gets inspiration from only his or her self. Furthermore, he says that composers must realize that they cannot do their work without a higher power inspiring their music.
Although, Sousa started his musical career soon after that. After his apprenticeship, Sousa joined a pit orchestra. That is where he learned to conduct a full orchestra. He then returned to the United States Marine Band in 1880. He remained the onductor until 1892. “The President’s Own” band was also directed by John Philip Sousa under the five presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison. He directed them from 1877-1893, and conducted the band at two inaugural balls in 1881 and 1889.
His colleague James Welsh Pepper was later recruited to create an upgraded version of the currently used helicons. He created the world’s first sousaphone in 1893. John Philip Sousa did have some input into the design of the new instrument, but the final design and construction are attributed to James Welsh Pepper. However, Sousa preferred to use a model later created by Charles Gerard Conn in 1898 for the Marine Band. John Philip Sousa resigned from the Marine Band on July 30, 1892. He felt compelled to do something new, and decided to create his own band.
He organized the Sousa Band in 1892, and they toured until 1931. They performed over fifteen-thousand concerts, not only in America, but internationally. They performed in world renowned venues. These included the Royal Albert Hall in London, and the World Exposition in Paris. They were one of only eight bands to march the streets to the Arc de Triomphe in forty years. John Philip Sousa had a very successful personal life. Sousa married Jane van Middlesworth Bellis on December 30, 1879. John Philip Jr. , Jane Priscilla, and Helen were John and Jane’s three children.
Beginning with Sousa’s wife followed by their children, they passed away in 1944, 1937, 1958, and 1975, respectively. They were all buried in the John Philip Sousa section of the Congressional Cemetery. In 1907, Sousa’s daughters, Jane Priscilla and Helen, and wife, Jane, joined the American Revolutions. Their family was related to Adam Bellis, a member of the New Jersey troops in the Revolutionary War. Much later into his life, Sousa lived in New York. Specifically, Sands Point, New York. According to John Philip Sousa’s obituary, he died in his hotel room in Reading, Pennsylvania.
This tragedy occurred on Sunday, March 6, 1932. As stated in his obituary published in the New York Times, “John Philip Sousa, famous American band conductor and march king of a generation ago, died unexpectedly early this morning in his room in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel from an attack of heart disease” (1). They also included that he had several interesting hobbies including trapshooting, horseback riding, and boxing. His death was certainly unexpected, considering the fact that he had led a rehearsal only the day before. He held a rehearsal with the Ringgold Band of “The Stars and Stripes Forever”.
Sousa was buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D. C.. John Philip Sousa was so influential to the United States, that an Elementary School was named after him shortly after he died. Furthermore, a band shell, similar to an amphitheater, was built in his name. In Port Washington, New York, a memorial tree was planted in his honor. John Philip Sousa owned a seaside house on Hicks Lane named Wild Bank. This property is since been considered a National Historic Landmark, despite the fact that it continues to be used as a private home, and is not open for public examination.
He was awarded the prestigious honor of being placed in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. This occurred in 1976. Moreover, John Philip Sousa is one of only one-hundred and two Americans to be awarded the honor in such an incredible manner. Overall, John Philip Sousa sacrificed twenty-one years of his life to participate in the United States Marine Corps Band. His first period of service spanned from June 9, 1868 until 1875. He first nlisted as an apprentice musician at the age of 13. According to the official Marine records, he entered as a “boy”. He renewed his enlistment on July 8, 1872. He was then promoted to the musician rank.
He ended his enlistment is 1875 when he was 20 years old. His second period of service lasted from 1880 until 1892. He lead the United States Marine band during this extensive time of commitment. He lead the band in Washington, D. C. His rank continues to be disputed. Most popularly, he is thought to have entered with the rank of Sergeant Major and was later promoted to Warrant Officer. However, these ideas re undoubtedly erroneous because the leader of the band had a rank that went by a different name, and the position of Warrant Officer was not created until almost 25 years after he had already left the Marines.
As the “leader of the band” Sousa made $83 per month, which is considerably more than the $30 per month that a Sergeant Major with twenty years of experience made. John Philip Sousa made the band the premier military band in the United States. They had over 60 cylinders made of their performances during their tours in 1891 and 1892. This led to Sousa becoming famous around the nation. His time ith the Marine Band led him to compose several famous marches. Namely, The Washington Post, and The Thunderer. These have remained staples of marching bands ever since.
In July of 1892, Sousa requested a discharge from the Marines due to a financially promising career as a band leader. He was granted the discharge, and left the day after his farewell concert at the White House on July 30, 1892. On May 31, 1917, Sousa joined the Naval Reserve as a lieutenant. This occurred a short time after the United States declared war on Germany. Sousa was 62 years old at this time, which was the retirement age for he Navy. Sousa led the Navy Band at the Naval Station near Chicago. At this point in his life, he was fairly wealthy, so he donated his salary other than $1 per month.
After the war ended in 1918, Sousa was discharged from active duty. He went back to conducting his own band, but still wore his naval uniform for concerts and important public appearances. Sousa was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in early 1920, but never returned to active duty. Sousa received the World War I Victory Medal for his service to the armed forces. As a result of his war time, he was elected Veteran Companion of the Military Order of Foreign Wars, a prestigious honor that is not given lightly. When John Philip Sousa was the presented with the Order of Public Instruction award in Portugal, he was covered in palms.
In December 1901, he was given the Royal Victorian Medal of the United Kingdom. He was presented this honor by King Edward VII. He was given this award because he conducted a private concert for the birthday of Queen Alexandra. Sousa even had a Military ship named after him, the Liberty ship SS John Philip Sousa. This ship was used during World War II. Interestingly enough, the original bell from that ship is still used in all of the Marine Band concerts. Additionally, John Philip Sousa has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
More specifically, at 1500 Vine Street. Sousa was introduced into the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in 1976. Furthermore, he was put into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame. This occurred in 1998 in Cincinnati, Ohio. More importantly, the Band Hall of the Marine Band was dedicated to him. The hall is named “John Philip Sousa Band Hall. ” Not only patriotic Americans everywhere, but Congress recognized Sousa’s dedication to the country in 1987 through a congressional act. They named “The Stars and Stripes Forever” he National March of the United States.
Over the course of John Philip Sousa’s career, he wrote 137 marches, 15 operettas, 5 overtures, 11 suites, 24 dances, 28 fantasies, and 322 arrangements of nineteenth-century western European symphonic works. Some of his most famous works include “The Gladiator March”, “Semper Fidelis”, “Chris and The Wonderful Lamp”, “The Coquette”, and “A Serenade in Seville”. John Philip Sousa’s numerous marches were published by a multitude of different publishing companies. A few of these included Harry Coleman of Philadelphia, Carl Fischer Music, the John Church Company, and the Sam Fox Publishing Company.
His last association began in 1917, but was ended when Sousa died. He wrote marches for many American universities, including the University of Nebraska, University of Minnesota, Marquette University, University of Illinois, and Kansas State University. Sadly, when Sousa died, some of his operetta’s remained unfinished, including “The Devils’ Deputy”, “The Irish Dragon”, and “The Victory”. Showing his true life-long dedication to music, he said, “My religion lies in my composition. ” This shows that John Philip Sousa truly dedicated his whole life to his country, and entertaining people with beautiful music.