Born in Washington, D.C., Sousa studied violin and harmony in his native city and learned band instruments as an apprentice to the U.S. Marine Band, of which his father was a member. 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. With great success he toured the United States, Canada, Europe, and other parts of the world. He 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 comic operas, such as El capitan (1896), The Bride Elect (1898), and The Free Lance (1906); 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.
Bibliography: See his autobiography, Marching Along (1928); biographies by A. M. Lingg (1954), K. Berger (1957), and P. E. Bierley (1973).
John Philip Sousa
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