|Sousa During the War in Naval Uniform|
John Philip Sousa (1852–1934) was born in Washington, DC, on 6 November 1854. His father was born in Spain of Portuguese parents and his mother was Bavarian. Sousa, known as the "March King," ranks among the most famous American composers and conductors.
Sousa was the leader of the U.S. Marine Band from 1880 until 1892. After leaving the Marine Band, he formed his own band, which toured Europe several times and was the first American band to make a tour around the world. On 25 December 1896, he debuted "The Stars and Stripes Forever"—his most loved piece. He was, therefore, already world famous when the Great War broke out.
During the First World War, Sousa was asked to train young musicians from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Sousa prepared hundreds and formed bands for different Navy ships, eventually receiving the rank of lieutenant commander. He also found time to provide accompaniment for Liberty Loan rallies and Red Cross fundraising drives. He composed some two dozen pieces related to the war, the most recognizable being the "Field Artillery March." He also created a moving accompaniment to John McCrae's immortal poem "In Flanders Fields."
John Philip Sousa died on 6 March 1932 in Reading, PA, and is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC. In 1987 a law was passed by Congress, and signed by President Reagan, designating "Stars and Stripes Forever" the official march of the United States of America.
|Grave Marker, Congressional Cemetery (Steve Miller Photograph)|