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John Philip Sousa Collection

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        John Philip Sousa Collection

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            To most Americans the name of John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) is synonymous with the Fourth of July. People throughout the world have been inspired by the rousing strains of the works of the "March King" and by performances of Sousa and His Band. In the 1890s his "Washington Post" march became the standard music to accompany the two-step, the dance craze that spread throughout Europe and the United States. A century later, in the 1990s, Sousa’s musical offerings are heard at concerts, sporting events, through electronic media, at military and civilian ceremonies, and are an integral component of the American experience. Sousa not only entertained his large and diverse audiences, he also educated his listeners and heightened their musical experience by presenting programs of classical literature through his band transcriptions, his own original works for the medium, and through the masterpieces of other composers of distinction. Although Sousa became identified primarily with the march, he wrote operettas (both the music and the libretti), transcriptions, arrangements, fantasies, humoresques, as well as songs, waltzes, overtures, concert pieces, suites, and descriptive pieces. A published author as well as a composer, Sousa also wrote books, journal articles, letters to the editor, and poetry.

        The widespread musical influence of John Philip Sousa through his compositions, transcriptions of music for band, and his literary efforts affected musical thought and practice worldwide. As director of the United States Marine Band from 1880-1892, Sousa developed "The President's Own" into an outstanding performing organization. After leaving the Marine Band in 1892 to direct his own professional touring band, Sousa was always aware that he was a musical ambassador for the United States and described himself as "Salesman of Americanism, globetrotter, and musician."

        The University of Illinois Connection

            Due to the presence of the Sousa Band performance collection, the University of Illinois is one of the few places that John Philip Sousa'’ music may be studied and understood as he actually intended it. The 3,400 titles of published and manuscript music are housed in the Harding Band Building in a suite of rooms especially designed to accommodate the collection. Over 120 holograph manuscript scores and music sketches penned by the "March King" may be found in the UIUC Sousa materials, as well as the band parts to his "Stars and Stripes Forever," declared the National March of the United States by an Act of Congress in December 1987.

        Sousa had planned that his band library would be presented to the University of Illinois after his death because he believed that his friend, Albert Austin Harding, prominent University of Illinois faculty member and first Director of Bands at Illinois (1905-48), would provide the collection with only the finest care. Sousa and Harding’s relationship dates to 1906 when the Sousa Band performed in Champaign; the ensuing friendship spanned nearly three decades. Together they served as adjudicators at national music contests, championed the cause that music be an integral part of the public school curriculum, and dramatically influenced the American school band movement. The two colleagues were members of the faculty at the National Music Camp at Interlochen (Michigan) and were charter members of the American Bandmasters Association. Sousa appreciated Harding’s musical and administrative capabilities and trusted that Harding would use the Sousa Band performance collection well at Illinois.

        Even though Sousa had planned to bequeath his performance library to the University of Illinois, he neglected to record that wish in his will. After Sousa’s death on March 6, 1932, Harding wrote several letters to the Sousa family and their attorneys to convince them that the library should be presented to the University. Although the family was skeptical about allowing the collection to go "out west," they agreed to release the materials, and plans were made to move the collection from warehouses in New York City to the Illinois campus.

        Ray Dvorak, Harding’s assistant, oversaw the packing and shipping of the collection; 39 trunks and two boxes containing 9,170 pounds of music arrived at the University in August, 1932. Although held by University Bands, the collection was housed in the University Library until 1957 when it was moved to the newly constructed Harding Band Building.

        The many diverse materials held in the Sousa Archives for Band Research have supported significant works of research done by scholars both locally and around the world. Renowned Sousa biographer Paul E. Bierley has made extensive use of SABRE holdings in writing his authoritative John Philip Sousa: American Phenomenon and The Works of John Philip Sousa. Other important works have included journal articles and Public Broadcasting Service productions.

        Significance and Use of the SABRE Collections

            The importance of the UIUC special band-related collections derives from the international acclaim and eminence of John Philip Sousa as reflected in the worldwide performances of his music, as well as in the name recognition that John Philip Sousa has earned. Scholars and musicians from the United States, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and countries throughout Europe have studied and performed Sousa's works, and regularly use the UIUC Sousa Collection as a basis for research. Keith Brion, artistic director and conductor of "The New Sousa Band" (Maryland Public Television, 1986) has explored Sousa Band performance practice and repertoire at UIUC to ensure authenticity for his performances. The highly successful and informative 1993 PBS documentary, If You Knew Sousa... incorporated materials from the Illinois collection in its presentation. In October, 1995 the PBS affiliate in Peoria (Illinois) filmed a one-half hour documentary, March On, Sousa! that featured the materials in the SABRE exhibit, John Philip Sousa: The Illinois Collection, at the UIUC Rare Book and Special Collections Library. The above-stated projects were facilitated by the 1964 (and ongoing) research of Paul E. Bierley, who surveyed the UIUC collection and reported his findings in John Philip Sousa, American Phenomenon (1973); John Philip Sousa: A Catalog of His Works (1973); and The Works of John Philip Sousa (1984), a revised and expanded edition of the catalog of Sousa’s musical and literary efforts.

        Numerous Sousa-related activities took place in 1996 to commemorate the centenary of the composition of Sousa's most famous march, &quotThe Stars and Stripes Forever". The beloved march had earlier been designated the National March of the United States of America by an Act of Congress which President Ronald Reagan signed into law on December 11, 1987. Correspondent Jo Thomas of The New York Times visited SABRE and consulted with Sousa Archivist Phyllis Danner in writing a nationally appearing article (&quotSousa's Beloved March To Mark Its 100th Year", December 15, 1996).

        A general survey of the titles of the two performance collections not only reveals evidence of political thought, patterns of society, and cultural structure, but also defines the American spirit that was prevalent during the initial decades of the twentieth century, thereby providing additional subject areas for research and publication.

        Other scholars who wish to conduct research in the Sousa and Clarke performance collections will find manuscript and published music of 19th- and early 20th-century composers whose works appear as transcriptions and as original works for the band medium.