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A Brief Timeline of Sousa's Life

Sousa, age 211854: Born Washington, DC, Nov. 6. John Philip was 3rd of 10 children of John Antonio Sousa (born in Spain of Portuguese parents) and Maria Elisabeth Trinkhaus (born in Bavaria). John Philip's father, Antonio, played trombone in the U.S. Marine band. He grew up around military band music.

1860: Began musical study around age six, studying voice, violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone and alto horn.

1867: His father enlisted him in the Marines at age 13 as an apprentice after he attempted to run away to join a circus band.

1872: Published first composition, "Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes".

1875: Discharged from Marines. Began performing (on violin), touring and eventually conducting theater orchestras. Conducted Gilbert & Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.

Jennie Bellis1879: In February, met Jane van Middlesworth Bellis during Pinafore rehearsals; they were married December 30, 1879.

1880: Returned to Washington in September to assume leadership of the US Marine Band.

1880-1892: Conducted "The President's Own", serving under presidents Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Arthur and Harrison. After two successful but limited tours with the Marine Band in 1891 and 1892, promoter David Blakely convinced Sousa to resign and organize a civilian concert band.

1892: The first Sousa Band concert was performed September 26 at Stillman Music Hall in Plainfield, New Jersey. Two days earlier, bandleader Patrick Gilmore had died in St. Louis. Nineteen of Gilmore's former musicians eventually joined Sousa's band, including Herbert L. Clarke (cornet) and E. A. Lefebre (saxophone). The original name of the band was "Sousa's New Marine Band", but criticism from Washington forced the withdrawal of the name.

1895: Sousa's first successful operetta, El Capitan, debuts.

1896: Sousa's promoter David Blakely dies while Sousa and his wife are on vacation in Europe. On the return voyage, Sousa receives the inspiration for The Stars and Stripes Forever.

1900: The Sousa Band tours Europe.

1901: Second European tour.

1905: Third European tour.

Sousa, US Navy1910: World Tour: New York, Great Britain, Canary Islands, South-Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Hawaii, Canada.

1917: During World War I, Sousa joins the US Naval Reserve at age 62. He is assigned the rank of lieutenant and paid a salary of $1 per month.

1919-1932: After the war, Sousa continued to tour with his band. He championed the cause of music education, received several honorary degrees and fought for composers' rights, testifying before Congress in 1927 and 1928.

1932: Sousa dies at age 77 on March 6th, after conducting a rehearsal of the Ringgold Band in Reading, Pennsylvania. The last piece he conducted was "The Stars and Stripes Forever".

For a more detailed timeline of Sousa's life, visit the John Philip Sousa Timeline at the Library of Congress website.