John Philip Sousa biography

John Philip Sousa

Popular Sheet Music:
Liberty Bell March

John Philip Sousa Biography

John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa (November 6, 1854 - March 6, 1932), is probably the most famous conductor and composer in history of military marches. He wrote well over 100 marches; some of his most popular are:

The marching brass bass, or sousaphone, is named after him.

Sousa's musical education began when he was seven years old. At the age of 13, he was enrolled as an apprentice with the United States Marine Corps Band. He left it after several years to join a theatrical band. He soon began conducting, and returned to the Marine Band as its head in 1880. During this time Sousa also led the marching band of Gonzaga College High School.

Sousa organized his own band in 1892. It toured widely, and in 1900 represented the United States at the Paris Exposition before touring Europe. Sousa repeatedly refused to conduct on the radio, fearing the lack of personal contact with the audience; he was persuaded to do so in 1929, and was very successful.

In addition to hundreds of marches, Sousa wrote ten operas and a number of musical suites.

Sousa exhibited many talents aside from music. He authored three novels and a full length autobiography as well as a great number of articles and letters-to-the-editor on a variety of subjects. As a trapshooter, he ranks as one of the all-time greats and his skill as a horseman met championship criteria.

He was in the vanguard of the reactionary camp in the music piracy wars of his era (cf. Recording Industry Association of America), in which authors of sheet music railed against the upstart recording industry. In a submission to a congressional hearing in 1906, he argued that:

These talking machines are going to ruin the artistic development of music in this country. When I was a boy ... in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs. Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.

The Operettas

  • The Queen of Hearts, 1885, also known as Royalty and Roguery.
  • The Smugglers, 1882.
  • Desiree, 1883.
  • El Capitan, 1895.
  • The Bride Elect, 1897, libretto by Sousa.
  • The Charlatan, 1898, also known as The Mystical Miss, lyrics by Sousa.
  • Chris and the Wonderful Lamp, 1899.
  • The Free Lance, 1905.
  • The American Maid, 1909, also known as The Glass Blowers.

Sousa also composed the music for six operettas that were either unfinished or not produced: The Devils' Deputy, Florine, The Irish Dragoon, Katherine, The Victory, and The Wolf.

Sousa the Freemason

One year after the 1882 transit of Venus, Sousa was commissioned to compose a processional for the unveiling of a bronze statue of American physicist Prof. Joseph Henry, who had died in 1878. Henry, who had developed the first electric motor, was also the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

A Freemason, Sousa was fascinated by what the group considered mystical qualities in otherwise natural phenomena. According to Sten Odenwald of the NASA IMAGE Science Center1 (, this played a significant role in the selection of the time and date of the performance, April 19, 1883, at 4:00 P.M. Dr. Odenwald points out that Venus and Mars, invisible to the participants, were setting in the west. At the same time, the Moon, Uranus and Virgo were rising in the east, Saturn had crossed the meridian, and Jupiter was directly overhead. According to Masonic lore, Venus was associated with the element copper, and Joseph Henry had used large quantities of copper to build his electric motors.

The 'Transit of Venus March'2 ( never caught on, and went unplayed for more than 100 years, after Sousa's copies of the music were destroyed in a flood. As reported in The Washington Post3 (, Library of Congress employee Loras Schissel recently found copies of the old sheet music for 'Venus' “languishing in the library's files.” The piece was resurrected recently, in time for the 2004 Transit.


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Items to buy by John Philip Sousa

67 Bugle Calls (as practiced in the Army and Navy of the United States). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). For Trumpet. This edition: New Edition. Collection. Standard notation. 8 pages. Published by Carl Fischer

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A Sousa Collection (A Canadian Brass Quintet Score and Parts). By The Canadian Brass. By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Howard Cable. Brass quintet. Brass Ensemble. Hal Leonard #THCB78. Published by Hal Leonard

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The Stars and Stripes Forever (NFMC) "By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Kevin Olson. For 1 piano, 4-hands. The FJH Piano Ensemble Series. Patriotic. Late Intermediate. Single sheet. Published by The FJH Music Company Inc"

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The Stars and Stripes Forever "(Arrangedfor Organ (with Optional Piccolo/Flute Version in Trio)). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by E.Power Biggs. For Organ, Piccolo, Flute. Solo part. Standard notation. 8 pages. Duration 3 minutes, 45 seconds. Published by Theodore Presse

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Sousa's Great Marches In Piano Transcription By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). For solo piano. Piano Collection. Dover Edition. Americana. SMP Level 6 (Late Intermediate). Collection. Introductory text and illustrations (does not include words to the songs). 111 pages. Published by Dover Publication

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The Stars And Stripes Forever By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Frank Halferty. For Piccolo Solo. Piccolo Solo. Grade 4. Published by Kendor Music Inc

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The Stars And Stripes Forever "By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Arthur Frackenpohl. For 2 Trumpets, French Horn, Trombone And Tuba. Brass Quintet. Patriotic, Americana. Grade 5. Published by Kendor Music Inc"

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The Stars and Stripes Forever! March "(For Piano Duet). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). For Piano I, Piano II. Set of parts. Standard notation. 9 pages. Published by Theodore Presser Company"

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"SOUSA: Marches plus Beethoven, Berlioz, Strauss" "By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), and Hector Berlioz (1803-1869). For trumpet. Instrumental Solo Part and CD. Published by Music Minus One"

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The Stars and Stripes Forever "(March). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Keith Brion & Loras Schissel. Concert band. Grade 4. Extra full score. Composed 1996. Duration 3 minutes, 26 seconds. Published by C.L. Barnhouse"

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The Stars and Stripes Forever! By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Allan Small. For Piano. Piano Solo; Solo. Simply Classics Solos. 20th Century; Patriotic; Romantic. Late Elementary. Sheet. 4 pages. Published by Alfred Music Publishing

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The Thunderer By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Jay Bocook. Score & Parts. FlexBand. Grade 2. Published by Hal Leonard

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The Stars and Stripes Forever "By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by David Marlatt. For 5 Clarinets. Woodwind - Clarinet Quintet. Eighth Note Publications. 20th Century, Patriotic. Duration 00:02:20. Published by Eighth Note Publications"

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The Liberty Bell March "By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). For marching band. Marches; Original Works. Marching Band. Romantic, American. Grade 3. Condensed score and set or parts. Composed 1893. Duration 3 minutes. Published by Edwin F. Kalmus"

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The Washington Post "(March). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Keith Brion & Loras Schissel. Concert band. Grade 3.5. Extra full score. Composed 1997. Duration 2 minutes, 35 seconds. Published by C.L. Barnhouse"

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Sousa's Famous Marches (Adapted for Student Bands). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Samuel Laudenslager. Concert band. For Baritone (Bass Clef). This edition: Baritone (bass clef) part. Classical. Part(s). Standard notation. 14 pages. Published by Theodore Presser

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Semper Fidelis "(March). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Keith Brion & Loras Schissel. Concert band. Sousa Centennial Series. Audio recording available separately (items CL.WFR137 & CL.WFR343). March. Grade 3.5. Score and set of parts. Composed 1995. Durat

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Aviators "(March). By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Concert Band. For Db Piccolo, Flute I, Flute II, Flute III, Oboe, Bb Clarinet I, Bb Clarinet II, Bb Clarinet III, Eb Clarinet, Eb Alto Clarinet, Bb Bass Clarinet, Bassoon, Eb Alto Saxophone, Bb Tenor Saxophone,

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"Concert Fantasy On ""the Stars and Stripes Forever" "(For Flute, Alt. Piccolo (Flute Only, Opt.) and Piano (Opt. Piano, 4 Hand Version Included)). By John Philip Sousa Mark Starr. For Piccolo, Flute, Piano. Solo part with piano reduction. Standard notation. 24 pages. Published by Carl Fischer"

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Semper Fidelis By John Philip Sousa (1854-1932). Arranged by Paul Lavender. Score & Parts. Discovery Plus Concert Band. Grade 2. Published by Hal Leonard

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