Nothing rouses the spirit like a march, and few bands can capture the patriotic fervor of an American march like the United States Marine Band. Affectionately known as “The President’s Own,” the Marine Band was founded in 1798 by an Act of Congress signed by President John Adams and is the longest performing musical organization in the nation. For over 200 years, the Marine Band has been led by legendary American musicians like John Philip Sousa. One of these renowned directors, Colonel John Bourgeois (Ret.), sat down with Pepper to discuss his time with the Marine Band and how its work has impacted American culture both at home and in the eyes of the world.
With the nation’s birthday approaching, it is appropriate to celebrate the men and women of the United States military, without whom we would not have the many comforts and freedoms we often take for granted. It takes all kinds of people to make our armed forces the elite presence it is in the world, and we honor each of their contributions, thanking them for all that they do for us.
Music is widely seen as a window into the spirit of the time it was written. Patriotic music is a prime example of this. The experience of a nation is told through patriotic music in a way that other forms of music often miss. Whether it be the pride of victory or a vocal expression of the beauty a nation possesses, there is something about patriotic music that speaks directly to national identity.
We’ve already spent some time exploring the history of The Star-Spangled Banner, but there are still a lot of interesting facts that you may not know. You may have heard the tune comes from a drinking song (false) or that the range of the song makes it difficult for your average person to sing (very true). It’s surprising to think that, after 200 years, there are a lot of things we don’t know about our national anthem. Such as…
The centennial of The Star-Spangled Banner brought a renewed interest in the song and the story of how it came to be written. Though the United States would not enter World War I until 1916, the conflict in Europe was on the minds of Americans everywhere and the knowledge that they may soon become embroiled in a foreign conflict loomed over them.
In the 200 years since Francis Scott Key wrote the words to The Star-Spangled Banner (then The Defense of Fort M’Henry), the song has proved to be just as resilient as the spirits of those who inspired it. The story of how the song was written is one that most Americans know. However, between its writing and today, the song has been through a number of changes, some subtle, some not.
We know the story of how The Star-Spangled Banner was written. Francis Scott Key, lawyer and amateur poet, sat aboard a British warship in Baltimore Harbor watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry when the lyrics came to him.
On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress authorized a brand-new flag – the Stars and Stripes — for a brand-new nation, the United States of America. Though President Woodrow Wilson established June 14 as Flag Day with an official proclamation in 1916, it was not until 1949 that June 14 was established as National Flag Day by an Act of Congress and signed into law by President Harry Truman. By the time Flag Day was officially established, some of our country’s most well-known patriotic music had been written.
Music is a natural accompaniment to enjoying the summer’s bounty of good food, good times and patriotic celebrations. Watch how some New England band members expressed their patriotism as they offered their community a musical wish for a happy Independence Day.
John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D.C. in 1854, on G Street near the Marine Barracks. His father, Antonio, played trombone in the U.S. Marine Band, and John Philip grew up surrounded by military music.