John Philip Sousa Living Historian

In 1986, there was a movement throughout the United States to make John Philip Sousa's march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” our national march.Band directors were asked to present concerts in the style of John Philip Sousa for their communities, have petition drives for signatures that would be presented to our national legislators, and learn more about Mr. Sousa's music.

With the help of Medina Community Band,  Paul Droste (former director of the Ohio State University Marching Band),  Ziggy Coyle (owner of Columbus' Coyle Music), and noted Sousa biographer  Paul Bierley, I studied about Sousa, learned how he programmed, and more importantly gained an understanding of how he made his marches sound so wonderful.Needless to say, our first “Sousa style” concert was a great success.

Our community so enjoyed the concert that they “demanded” we repeat it, which we do twice a year (once during the winter and every July 4th).The concerts have become part of the fabric of our band and our community.I would rather think that they allow a new generation of listeners the opportunity to hear Sousa's music.

Other band directors encouraged me to “do the Sousa thing” with their band, which I did.I continued to learn more about how Sousa “did his thing,” and to encourage band directors to explore the music of the great concert band era of the 1800 and 1900s.It became evident that in addition to “preparing the bands for performance” it was just as important to tell them more about Mr. Sousa, his music, and his times.Thus, I became a living historian.

All school performances by Marcus Neiman & The Sounds of Sousa Band now contain a “living historian” component which allows me to talk about the “March King.”Evening concerts also include audience informances, usually taking place 45 to 60 minutes prior to the performance, for parents, grandparents, family members and friends who are interested in Mr. Sousa.

Section leaders of The Sounds of Sousa Band now present “living histories” of the great players of The Sousa Band (cornetists Herbert L. Clarke and Frank Simon; Euphoniumist Simon Mantia; trombonist Arthur Pryor; flutist Meredith Willson (yes, the one who wrote “The Music Man,” was a member of the Sousa Band), and others.

As you consider bringing Marcus Neiman & The Sounds of Sousa Band to your school or venue, please consider adding the “living historian” component to your performance.Allow the past to come alive.Allow the connections that can be made from the past to connect us to the future.