Sousa Birthday Celebrations at Congressional Cemetery

Marine Band pays tribute to 'March King'

Assistant Director Captain Ryan J. Nowlin of the United States Marine Corps Band salutes after laying a wreath on the grave of former band leader John Philip Sousa during the 2017 ceremony. E.O'Gorek/CCN

“It was a real life, where real things happened.” So remarked the actor portraying John Philip Sousa at the 163rd birthday celebrations in honor of the renowned composer and leader of the United States Marine Band from 1880 to 1892.

Patti Cinelli (R) received the Volunteer of the Year Award at the John Philip Sousa celebration Monday. Historic Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams is at center. Photo courtesy C. Pate/Historic Congressional Cemetery

Historic Congressional Cemetery President Paul Williams started the event with the presentation of three awards. The cemetery’s Docent of the Year was awarded to Jeff Trinca, and Volunteer Of the Year to Patti Cinelli while the Sousa Distinguished Service Award was presented in absentia to Loredana Santo.

Following the presentation of awards, the actor told stories from the life of John Philip Sousa. Sousa (November 6, 1860 – March 6, 1932) was born in a house near Sixth and G Streets SE. After an attempt at the age of 13 to run away as a musician with the circus, Sousa’s father enrolled him in the Marine Corps as a musician apprentice.

Students from Ambleside School (1089 Liberty Meeting Court Herndon, VA) pose with the actor portraying John Philip Sousa at Sousa’s graveside. The students attended the ceremony and are learning about Sousa in class.
The United States Marine Band enters Congressional Cemetery for the 163rd birthday celebrations of John Philip Sousa.

Beginning in 1880, Sousa led the Marine Band, also known as ‘The President’s Own Band,’ through five presidents before retiring in 1892 to lead his civilian band, the Sousa Band.

Sousa became internationally known as the ‘March King,’ and was the composer of such renowned pieces as “Semper Fidelis,” the Official March of the United States Marine Corps, “The Washington Post” and “Stars and Stripes Forever,” the National March of the United States.

The United States Band honored Sousa’s memory by playing, in addition to the anthem, many of Sousa’s own compositions.

Assistant Director Captain Ryan J. Nowlin spoke to the crowd before leading the band through several of Sousa’s works. After laying a wreath on Sousa’s grave, Captain Nowlin and the Marine Band concluded the ceremony with a performance of Semper Fidelis.