Composers Datebook®

Sousa leaves the Marine Band


On today's date in 1892, the Washington Post's headlines included one that read: "Sousa's Farewell Toot—Last Appearance of the Marine Band Under His Baton—Admirers of the Popular Conductor Crowd Forward for a Farewell Shake of the Hand at the Close of His Final Concert on the White House Grounds."

In his 12-year tenure with the Marine Band, Sousa had made it one of the finest touring ensembles in his day. Sousa was famous coast-to-coast—but not all that well paid. While on tour early in 1892, Sousa had been approached in Chicago by an impresario with a business proposition: "Why not form your OWN band, Mr. Sousa? I can offer you four times your Marine Corps salary, plus a percentage of the new band's profits." Sousa thought it over, and upon his return to Washington, D.C., submitted his resignation effective July 31, 1892. His final concerts with the Marine Band took place on July 29th and 30th that year.

The first was given indoors at the National Theater, with then-Vice President Levi P. Morton in attendance. The following day, on the White House grounds, an open-air concert attracted a huge audience that included President Benjamin Harrison. With that, one important chapter of Sousa's musical career had ended, but another was just beginning. Over the next four decades, the Sousa Band would go on to become famous worldwide.

Music Played in Today's Program

John Philip Sousa (1854 - 1932) Manhattan Beach Dallas Wind Symphony; Jerry Junkin, cond. Reference 94

On This Day


  • 1886 - Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Liszt, age 74, in Bayreuth


  • 1922 - Hindemith: "Kammermusik" No. 1, Op. 42a, at Donaueschingen, Germany, with Hermann Scherchen conducting

  • 1938 - Morton Gould: "Second American Sinfonietta," at a New York Philharmonic concert at Lewisohn Stadium conducted by the composer

  • 1982 - Rochberg: opera "The Confidence Man" (after the novel by Hermann Melville), at the Sante Fe Opera in New Mexico

  • 2004 - Jennifer Higdon: "Loco," at the Ravinia Festival, by the Chicago Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach conducting


  • 1750 - Probable date of J.S. Bach's burial in Leipzig (see July 28).

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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