John Philip Sousa, United States Marine BandView in iTunes
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John Philip Sousa wrote the most famous American military marches of all time, including "Stars and Stripes Forever," earning him the nickname "the March King"; he was also known as a great bandleader, and organized the famed concert and military group, Sousa's Band. Born in Washington, D.C., on November 6, 1854, Sousa followed in the footsteps of his father, a musician in the U.S. Marine Corps, and enlisted by the age of 14. Before this, Sousa had studied violin with John Esputa. While active in the Marines, he composed his first march, "Salutation." Around the age of 16, Sousa began studying harmony with G.F. Benkert, then worked as a pit orchestra conductor at a local theater, followed by jobs as first chair violinist at the Ford Opera House, the Philadelphia Chestnut Street Theater, and later led the U.S. Marine Corps Band (1880-1992). Although most famous for his marches, Sousa composed in other styles as well, including a waltz, "Moonlight on the Potomac"; a gallop, "The Cuckoo" (both in 1869); the oratorio "Messiah of the Nations" (1914); and scores for Broadway musicals The Smugglers (1879), Desiree (1884), The Glass Blowers (1893), El Capitan (1896; which was his first real scoring success), American Maid (1913), and more. Sousa formed his sternly organized marching band in 1892, leading them through numerous U.S. and European tours, a world tour, and an appearance in the 1915 Broadway show Hip-Hip-Hooray. Sousa's Band also recorded many sides for the Victor label up through the early '30s. His most famous marches include "The Stars and Stripes Forever" (1897), "U.S. Field Artillery March," "Semper Fidelis" (written in 1888, it became the Marine Corps anthem), "Washington Post March" (1889), "King Cotton" (1895), "El Capitan" (1896), and many more. In addition to writing music, Sousa also wrote books, including the best-seller Fifth String and his autobiography, Marching Along. Actor Clifton Webb portrayed Sousa in the movie about his life entitled Stars and Stripes Forever. The instrument the sousaphone was named after this famous composer and bandleader. ~ Joslyn Layne