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John Philip Sousa

1854–1932

John Philip Sousa was born on 6 November 1854 in Washington DC. At 13, Sousa joined the United States Marine Band as an apprentice musician. By age 20, Sousa had left the Marine Band and pursued his talents as a violinist and conductor. His break came when he was employed as the leader of the 'President's Own' or United States Marine Band. For the next 12 years, Sousa worked with this band and they gradually acquired the reputation as the country's finest military band.

Sousa famously declared 'I would rather be the composer of an inspired march than of a manufactured symphony.' Perhaps this was one of the many reasons that lead to Sousa resigning from the Marine Band Once more. Shortly after this, he formed his own civilian band, which was to become the band that travelled the world with him and performed 15,623 live concerts over the next 40 years.

Sousa attended a banquet hosted in his honour on 6 March 1932 at Reading, Pennsylvania. The Townsville Daily Bulletin in Queensland reported that at one point, 'in a week voice he excused himself', left the function and was found dead in his hotel room the next day.