Sunday, November 6, marks the 157th anniversary of the birth of John Philip Sousa. Sousa was an American composer and conductor and is well-known for his American military and patriotic marches. Because of his proficiency writing these types of pieces, Sousa would come to be known as “the March king.”
Sousa was raised in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War, and was exposed to military music on a regular basis during a time when military bands provided not only entertainment, but where also used to accompany soldiers into combat. After becoming the director of the Marine Band in 1880, Sousa began to make a name for himself as a composer of the patriotic style of music he’d been hearing since his childhood. In 1892, he formed the Sousa Band, which traveled internationally and was led by Sousa until just before his death in 1932.
We have two of Sousa’s marches represented in our Digital Collections, as part of the Sheet Music collection of the Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture.
The first is the “El Capitan March,” published in 1896 from and operetta composed by Sousa entitled El Capitan. The sheet music we have is an arrangement for only piano.
The second is likely Sousa’s most famous piece, “Stars and Stripes Forever.” It was also composed in 1896, but the arrangement in our collection, again for piano, was published in 1897. In 1987, an act of Congress named this piece the National March of the United States of America.