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John Philip Sousa: The March King

1317 words - 6 pages

“Anybody can write music of a sort. But touching the public heart is quite another thing.” This was said by John Philip Sousa. Sousa, perhaps the most skillful composer/conductor in all of history, certainly touched America’s public with his inspiring marches, drawing emotions and pictures of bravery, pride, and courage. He and his marches single handedly changed the course of musical history, and his achievements and legacy still leave a mark on today’s modern world.
Born on November 6, 1854 to John Antonio Sousa and Mary Elisabeth Trinkhaus, Sousa’s musical talent was recognized at an early age. Exposed to military music on a regular basis, he began his music education at the age of 6, ...view middle of the document...

The new helicon requested by Sousa would have an oversized bell pointing straight up, but all other features would be exactly like a normal helicon. This instrument was made to his specifications by James Welsh Pepper and was eventually called the sousaphone, mostly employed in marching bands.
To better understand Sousa, one must first comprehend the history of the march. The origins of American march music can be traced as far back as to even the military music of the Ottoman Empire. The preeminent reason for the music was to keep the forces uniform and to communicate to the troops the orders. The use of percussion was to help keep time, but it was better known to have a psychological effect on both the enemies and to the “home team”. The constant entourage of loud percussion had the capacity to frighten opponents, whereas it just as easily raised morale in the “home team”, often rejuvenating their “fighting spirit”. American march music was employed especially during the Revolutionary War though marches were also used in early wartime conflicts as well. Because march music was traditionally used by military means, march music can also be called a military's music. Military bands still continue to perform marches during related ceremonies and other events, and as a result, spawned a whole new tradition of playing marches as a source of entertainment.
Sousa set a precedent and standard for the rest of history’s marches. Every element of his marches inspired the public and the army. His ingenious compositions have been used to not only to provide entertainment for the masses, but his music has been marching along with soldiers both at and away from the battle field, forever etched in many Americans’ hearts and history. The popularity of John Philip Sousa's band marches was unmatched. Some of his life achievements’ include “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, “Washington Post”, and “Semper Fidelis”. These visionary works are universally acknowledged as the some of the best in the March genre and are historically significant.
Composed in 1896, “The Stars and Stripes Forever” has certainly found its place in American history. Sousa later wrote in his autobiography, Marching Along, that he composed the march on Christmas Day, 1896. He had just learned of the recent death of David Blakely, the manager of the Sousa Band. It was first composed in Sousa’s head and he later committed the notes to paper once arriving in the U.S. First performed in Philadelphia, the American public greeted this new march with great zeal. It is generally acknowledged that no other musical composition could incite as much feelings of pride in our country and the spirit of America than John Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” with the exception of “The Star Spangled Banner”. The song is reminiscent of America’s freedom and our flag. It is the official national march of the United States and is performed still, often generating a robust and exciting...

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