JOHN PHILIP SOUSA Biography - Musicians


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Name: John Philip Sousa                                                             
Born: 5 November 1854 Washington, D.C.                                               
Died: 8 March 1932 Reading, Pennsylvania                                             
Nickname: The March King                                                             
John Philip Sousa (November 6, 1854 - March 6, 1932) was an American composer       
and conductor of the late Romantic era known particularly for American military     
marches. Because of his prominence, he is known as "The March King." In public       
he was typically referenced by his full name.                                       
Sousa was born in Washington, D.C., to John Antonio de Sousa and Maria Elisabeth     
Trinkhaus. His parents were of Portuguese, Spanish and Bavarian (German) descent;   
his grandparents were Portuguese refugees. Sousa started his music education,       
playing the violin, as a pupil of John Esputa and G. F. Benkert for harmony and     
musical composition at the age of six. He was found to have absolute pitch. When     
Sousa reached the age of 13, his father, a trombonist in the Marine Band,           
enlisted his son in the United States Marine Corps as an apprentice. Sousa           
served his apprenticeship for seven years, until 1875, and apparently learned to     
play all the wind instruments while honing his mettle with the violin.               
On December 30, 1879, he married Jane van Middlesworth Bellis. They had three       
children: John Philip Sousa, Jr (1 April 1881 - 18 May 1937), Jane Priscilla (7     
Aug 1882 - 28 Oct 1958), and Helen (21 Jan 1887 - 14 Oct 1975). All three are       
buried in the John Philip Sousa plot in the Congressional cemetery. Jane joined     
the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1907.                                   
Several years later, Sousa left his apprenticeship to join a theatrical (pit)       
orchestra where he learned to conduct. He returned to the U.S. Marine Band as       
its head in 1880, and remained as its conductor until 1892. 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 a lack of personal contact with the audience. He       
was finally persuaded to do so in 1929 and became a smash hit.                       
Sousa lived in Port Washington, New York. There is a school (John Philip Sousa       
Elementary), a band shell and a memorial tree planted in Port Washington.           
Sousa died on March 6, 1932, in his room at the Abraham Lincoln Hotel in Reading,