Sousa, John Philip



American bandmaster and the composer of many marches and waltzes played throughout America, Germany and England and other countries, and of several comic operas, which have been produced with great success. He is usually styled " the march king" because of his many contributions to this class of music. Sousa occupies a unique and distinctive position in the realm of music. While his compositions are usually designated as " popular" music, they are generally admitted to be good music, is marches have a swing, a rhythm and a martial fire to them that no other compositions of that class have ever had. His music is held so typically American in Germany that his marches are played on international occasions. Sousa was born in Washington, D. C, of a German mother and a Spanish father, who was a political refugee from his country. He studied first with John Esputa and harmony and composition with George Felix Benkert. At eight years of age he was playing violin in a dancing-school and at the age of sixteen led the orchestra in a variety theatre. Two years later he was director of a traveling theatrical company, and also traveled with a minstrel company. Later young Sousa was with an orchestra, which toured the United States, headed by the operatic composer, Offenbach. He next became director of a Pinafore company, and finally, in 1880, was appointed leader of the United States Marine band, retaining this post through several administrations, from 1880 to 1892. While in that position Sousa collected the national patriotic and typical airs of all countries, by order of the United States Government, and had them published in book form, making a valuable work of reference, which has been placed in all the public libraries of this and other countries. He helped to make the United States Marine band known the world over, and since 1892, when he became director of his own band, he has made it equally well known and popular, and has attained to a position of distinct importance as a and-leader. Sousa has showed his versatility by composing several light operas, many of which have attained a remarkable success; numerous marches; waltzes; orchestral suites; songs; and Te Deums. He is also the author of two novels, The Fifth String and Pipetown Shandy, and has written an instruction book for trumpet and drum and one for the violin. His first composition to win renown was his march, Liberty Bell, by which alone he is said to have earned $35,000. Other marches are the patriotic Stars and Stripes Forever; High School Cadets; Washington Post March; King Cotton; and Manhattan Beach, all written in the swinging martial style, in which the composer excels. The music of these marches has been sold to eighteen thousand bands in the United States alone, by rough estimate. Sousa's first comic opera, The Smugglers, was produced in 1879, then came Desiree, brought out by the McCaull Opera Company; El Capitan, produced in 1896, this being perhaps the most popular and tuneful of any of his works in this line; Chris and the Wonderful Lamp; The Bride Elect, with both music and libretto by Sousa; The Charlatans; The Free Lance, produced in 1906 with success; and the Queen of Hearts. Sousa toured Europe with his band in 1900, 1901, 1903 and 1905. He appeared before King Edward, the King bestowing upon him the decoration of the Victorian Order. He has also been honored by the Academy of Hainault, of Belgium, with the diploma of honor and has been decorated by the French government with the Palms of the Academy.