John Philip Sousa had been a conductor since 1878 and had been a musician since about 1861. The Famous Sousa Band, his own organization, has been in existence for nearly forty years and for the twenty years immediately preceding he was the conductor of the Marine Band attached to the President's household.
Throughout his career as a conductor he had also been a composer, and it is an open question which of his two activities brought him the greater renown. It would be difficult to segregate the two, however, for his marches, his band and his personality served as a single unit in creating his unique reputation.
Mr. Sousa was born in Washington in 1854. The fact that his father was a musician and a member of the Marine Band which his son was later to lead, combined with the marital spirit of Civil War days of his youth in Washington, served to give his talent the bent which made him the march king to all the world for a quarter of a century.
His musical education began at 7. He had already made up his mind that he wanted to be a musician, and four years later he won all the medals at the conservatory, the beginning of his collection of decorations, which is said to be the largest in his field in the world. That same year he became a violin soloist, and two years later his father enrolled him as an apprentice with the Marine Band.
After several years with that organization he left it to join a theatrical orchestra, and early in this period of his career he had an opportunity to substitute for the conductor