John Philip Sousa, is probably the most famous marching band conductor and composer in history. He wrote well over 100 marches, including The Stars and Stripes Forever, The Liberty Bell (best known as the theme song for Monty Python's Flying Circus), and The Washington Post. The marching tuba, or sousaphone, is named after him.
Sousa's musical education began when he was seven years old. At the age of 13, he was enrolled as an apprentice with Marine Band. He left it after several years to join a theatrical band. He soon began conducting, and returned to the Marine Band as its head in 1880.
Sousa organized his own band in 1892. It toured widely, and in 1900 represented the United States at the Paris Exposition before touring Europe. Sousa repeatedly refused to conduct on the radio, fearing the lack of personal contact with the audience; he was persuaded to do so in 1929, and was very successful.
In addition to hundreds of marches, Sousa wrote ten operas and a number of musical suites.
Listen to an archival recording of Sousa's band performing "Stars and Stripes Forever" (2MB .ogg file) here
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