Sousa, John Philip

Sousa, John Philip so͞o´zə, –sə [key], 1854–1932, American bandmaster and composer, b. Washington, D.C. He studied violin and harmony in his native city and learned band instruments as an apprentice to the U.S. Marine Band, in which his father played the trombone. Early in his career he conducted theater orchestras, and he played in Offenbach's orchestra in its American tour (1876–77). Sousa was leader of the U.S. Marine Band from 1880 until 1892, when he formed his own band. He toured the United States, Canada, Europe, and other parts of the world with great success. Sousa composed more than 100 marches, many of which became immensely popular, including Semper fidelis (1888), The Washington Post March (1889), The Stars and Stripes Forever (1897), and Hands across the Sea (1899). He also wrote several comic operettas, among them El Capitán (1896), The Bride Elect (1898), The Free Lance (1906), and The Glass Blowers (1913), and some orchestral music. In the development of the concert band he was the successor of Patrick S. Gilmore and did much to improve the instrumentation and quality of band music.

See his autobiography, Marching Along (1928); biographies by A. M. Lingg (1954), K. Berger (1957), and P. E. Bierley (1973).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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