John Philip Sousa (1854 - 1932)
John Philip Sousa is the "March King" and one of the most famous American composers and conductors. John was born in Washington, DC on November 6, 1854. On Christmas day, 42 years later, he composed The Stars and Stripes Forever - the official march of the United States. John composed over 100 marches. He also invented the sousaphone (a brass horn instrument.)
John began studying music when he was six. When he was 13, his father enlisted him in the marines after he tried to join a circus band. Almost 10 years later, John was discharged from the marines so he began performing and touring with his violin. Eventually, he began conducting theater orchestras. This led to a job leading the US Marine Band. After two successful tours, John organized his own band. They toured Europe several times and were the first American band to tour around the world.
During World War I, when John was 62, he joined the US Naval Reserve as a lieutenant and was paid $1 a month. After the war, he continued to tour with his band. He also promoted musical education, received several honorary degrees and fought for composer's rights. John died at age 77 in Reading, Pennsylvania after a rehearsal. The Stars and Stripes Forever was the last piece John conducted.