Home » Art » Movies » John_Philip_Sousa__The_Stars_and_Stripes_Forever


   Send article as PDF   





John Philip Sousa: The Stars and Stripes Forever



John Philip Sousa: The Stars and Stripes Forever


In the contemporary world, embracing diversity is the key to achieving success in many aspects. It is through the acknowledgment of various cultures that innovative solutions are developed. In that regard, the creative elements are experienced in technology, artistry, and visual art among others. As such, this paper will dwell on the music by John Philip Sousa, The Stars and Stripes Forever. It will provide a detailed description of the music including the historical background among others.

Personal Observation

The performance of The Stars and Stripes Forever is quite astounding. The technique used in this music is superb. The orchestration mechanism, as well as the acoustic elements of the instruments, are excellent. One thing that stands out is the uniformity of the piccolos. Synchronizing even two of them is a hard task. But in this case, playing four piccolos in unison is more than amazing. Furthermore, all the other instruments are synchronized excellently to produce a sweet melody. The entire piece is constructed in an enticing manner as the low brass provides a countermelody to the piccolo players (Band, 1998). The lyrics of this music are patriotic and strive to uphold the sovereignty of the United States. Even as people may deem their flags to be the best, the U.S flag is the best of them all symbolizing a free nation. As such, these lyrics are embodied by the performance from the band. In the second strain, another theme is introduced that is less relaxed and is mostly conducted by the upper woodwinds i.e. the clarinet and piccolo. After the strain is redone, the melody is handed to the saxophones, euphoniums, and trumpets that add effect to the piece. After repeating the second strain, Sousa introduces an entirely different style with a melody that is mainly undertaken by the saxophone, bells, and the clarinet. The closing intervals are melodious making it memorable to the audience. The interchanges between these elements make the piece memorable (Band, 1998).

Research on the Work

John Philip Sousa was born on the 6th day of November 1854 as the third born to a family of ten children. He was the best composer and conductor regarding American military as well as patriotic marches during the latter stages of the Romantic era. Due to his unique qualities and mastery in this kind of music, Sousa was nicknamed “The American March King.” Some of his best works include The Stars and Stripes Forever, Semper Fidelis, The Liberty Bell, The Washington Post, and The Thunderer. Sousa started out his career playing the violin while studying music composition and theory under George Felix Benkert and John Esputa. He was later enrolled into the U.S. Marine Band in 1868 where he departed after seven years and learned how to conduct. Between 1880 and 1932, Sousa solely focused on writing music and conducting. During this time, he rejoined the band in the capacity of Director where he served for 12 years. He would later form his band, touring Australia and Europe to perform. In this period, Sousa also created the sousaphone. During World War I, he was instituted as a lieutenant commander where he led the Illinois’s Naval Reserve Band (Van Outryve, 2006). In the 1890s, the first United States militia was organized. The Census reports also indicated that there were roughly 62,622,250 people within the region. Furthermore, Congress had extended the exclusion of the Chinese act. As such, Sousa might have been drawn to inscribe this lyrics by the extreme patriotic feelings that compounded the United States during this period.


Regarding his personal life, Sousa was married to Jane Van Middlesworth Bellis with whom they bore three kids namely John Philip, Jr., Jane Priscilla, and Helen. In his late years, Sousa resided in Sands Point, New York. He died in March 1932 due to heart failure a day after he had led a recitation of The Stars and Stripes Forever with the Ringgold Band. This work is regarded as one his best piece. It is a patriotic American march that was instituted as the official National March of the U.S. by the United States Congress in 1987 (Biography.com, 2015). As entailed in his autobiography, Sousa composed the music in 1896 on Christmas Day he was traveling from a vacation in Europe. Accompanied by his wife, Sousa was on an ocean liner when the words came to his mind. The composition was also instigated by the death of David Blakely who was the manager of the Sousa Band. In one instance as he was asked where he drew his inspiration to compose it, Sousa stated, “God……On board the steamer as I walked miles up and down the deck, back and forth, a mental band was playing ‘Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Day after day as I walked it persisted in crashing into my very soul. I wrote it on Christmas Day, 1896” (Fettig, n.d). On entering the United States, he went on to write the words on paper. Immediately after its first performance in 1897 at Willow Grove Park, the work received enthusiastically.

As time went by, the march continued to endear itself to the American people. It would trigger and emotional response from the audience. Due to its greatness, the piece was openly demanded at all Sousa Band concerts. Most of the formed band members stated that it was rarely absent in any of the concerts they played. A measure of greatness is also typified by the fact that the players and audience never tired from listening to the piece.

The major theme in this music is patriotism. It was the key element in most of Sousa’s writings illustrating his significance to the American people. Patriotism is emphasized from the beginning to the end of this piece. The first strain has sentiments like “Is freedom’s shield and hope” that strive to illustrate the country’s independence. The theme is repeatedly emphasized even as the music enters the grandioso.

Even though it was composed some years back, The Stars and Stripes Forever is still relevant for the current audience. The stars and stripes are the emblems of the United States’ Flag. Moreover, the U.S. Congress under the 1987 act enacted the song as the official National March of the U.S. Any patriotic audience is acclimatized to this song. Most athletes and soccer fans, typically use sentiments from the song to support their respective teams. Apart from the lyrics, the performance can also be enticing to the viewers and other upcoming artists.

Analyzing this song has been instrumental and enhanced my perceptions on patriotism. Even without the element of patriotism, the song is a masterpiece. However, the patriotic significance makes it even more attractive and by far the most popular march ever. For years, the country strived to free various groups and to unite them under one symbol of nationalism i.e. the flag. Therefore, the song accurately unites the people of the United States. The lyrics further enhance my perception that the United States is the foremost example of true liberty.


Band, T. P. (Performer). (1998). SOUSA The Stars and Stripes Forever.
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-7XWhyvIpE

Biography.com. (2015, November 16). John Philip Sousa Biography. Retrieved from The Biography.com: http://www.biography.com/people/john-philip-sousa-9489296

Fettig, J. K. (n.d). The Stars and Stripes Forever. Retrieved from http://www.marineband.marines.mil/Audio-Resources/The-Complete-Marches-of-John-Philip-Sousa/The-Stars-and-Stripes-Forever-March/

Van Outryve, K. (2006). Appreciating An Old Favorite: Sousa’s All-Time Hit. Music Educators Journal.



Scroll to Top