John Philip Sousa's mature career as the indomitable leader of the United States Marine Band and his own touring Sousa Band is well known, but the years leading up to his emergence as a celebrity have escaped serious attention. In this revealing biography, Patrick Warfield explains the making of the March King by documenting Sousa's early life and career. Covering the period 1854 to 1893, this study focuses on the community and training that created Sousa, exploring the musical life of late nineteenth-century Washington D.C. and Philadelphia as a context for Sousa's development.
Warfield examines Sousa's wide-ranging experience composing, conducting, and performing in the theater, opera house, concert hall, and salons, as well as his leadership of the United States Marine Band and the later Sousa Band, early twentieth-century America's most famous and successful ensemble. Sousa composed not only marches during this period but also parlor, minstrel, and art songs; parade, concert, and medley marches; schottisches, waltzes, and polkas; and incidental music, operettas, and descriptive pieces. Warfield's examination of Sousa's output reveals a versatile composer much broader in stylistic range than the bandmaster extraordinaire remembered as the March King. Warfield presents the story of Sousa as a self-made business success, a gifted performer and composer who deftly capitalized on his talents to create one of the most entertaining, enduring figures in American music.