[Why not? But this ain’t a seasonal comment!]
CONSIDER THAT NOVEMBER THE SIXTH MARKS THE BIRTH ANNIVERSARY of America’s beloved March King, who above all composed some of the best loved – and most patriotic – of pieces known the world over what the USA stands for. And I thought that as an Indian-American I would post for all to see (and hear!) what truly brings us together before we head to our nearest polling booths on November 8 to cast our sacred votes as citizens.
John Philip Sousa
November 6, 1854 – March 6, 1932
Let’s begin at the beginning of John Philip Sousa’s life and his indelible, unforgettable martial music in the ears and minds of Americans across this great land:
John Philip Sousa was born on November 6, 1854. He was an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, known primarily for American military and patriotic music. Because of his mastery of march composition, he was, and is known forever as “The March King.”
Among his best-known marches are “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (National March of the United States of America), “Semper Fidelis” (Official March of the United States Marine Corps), “The Liberty Bell”, “The Thunderer” and “The Washington Post.” (You may click on the red hotlinks to access the YouTube videos uploaded for your pleasure – you won’t be disappointed, I guarantee!)
Maestro Sousa’s father was of Portuguese and Spanish descent, his mother of Hessian ancestry. Sousa began his career playing violin and studying music theory and composition under John Esputa and George Felix Benkert. His father enlisted him in the United States Band as an apprentice in 1868. After departing the band in 1875, Sousa learned to conduct. From 1880 until his death, he focused exclusively on conducting and the writing of music. He eventually rejoined the Marine Band and served there for 12 years as director. On leaving the Marine Band, Sousa organized his own band. He toured Europe and Australia and developed the sousaphone, a large brass instrument similar to the helicon and tuba. At the outbreak of World War I, Sousa was commissioned as a lieutenant commander and led the Naval Reserve Band in Illinois. Following his tenure, he returned to conduct the Sousa Band until his death in 1932. In the 1920s he was promoted to lieutenant commander in the naval reserve, but never saw active service again.
Afterword: My late older brother, the highly decorated Lt. Gen. Misbah Mayadas of the Indian Army, was enamored throughout his storied career by Sousa’s marches, particularly Semper Fidelis, which happened to be his own motto that he instilled into the troops he led over several decades in the mid-1990’s. So, in a sense, I owe him a debt of gratitude for instilling in me the importance of a strong and committed military in any democracy that hopes to prevail over any threat from a bellicose country.
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