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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » S » Sousa, John Philip



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John Philip Sousa (11/06/1854 - 3/06/1932)

Sousa said a march ‘should make a man with a wooden leg step out’, and his surely did. However, he was no mere maker of marches, but an exceptionally inventive composer of over two hundred works, including symphonic poems, suites, songs and operettas created for both orchestra and for band. John Philip Sousa personified the innocent energy of turn-of-the-century America and he represented America across the globe. His American tours first brought classical music to hundreds of towns. While Sousa’s fame as a bandmaster needs little comment, far less is known about his formative years as an orchestral composer, conductor and violinist.

Born in Washington DC on 6 November, 1854, Sousa developed with startling quickness. Fame was no accident. Sousa’s father was a trombonist with the United States Marine Band. By the age of six, his musical talent had become apparent and he was enrolled for a year of solfeggio with a local Italian teacher. The boy was found to have absolute pitch, and thus deemed sufficiently gifted to begin basic training in harmony and the study of the violin. These early school days coincided with the great events of the American Civil War, then swirling around the Washington area.

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