The March King

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In 1906, John Philip Sousa and his band graced the stage of the What Cheer Opera House, What Cheer Iowa. 

Actually, his band spilled out the back door, as they did not all fit on stage! 

In his honor, a group of musicians in Eastern Iowa assembled one hundred years to perform a concert on that very stage, on the same date he and his band were there one hundred years prior.  We are comprised of professional musicians, including many band directors, and those of us that play just for fun!  Through the past ten years, we have had various themes for concerts, under the direction of Gary Huxford, but the first was dedicated to the same music played by Sousa’s band.

John Philip Sousa (11.06.1854 – 03.06.1932) was an American composer best known for composing and performing marches, giving him the name “The March King.”  His most famous were Semper Fidelis (the official March of the United States Marine Corps) and The Stars and Stripes Forever (the national March of the United States).

Click below to hear a recording of the Stars and Stripes at the Opera House!

Sousa was a very gifted musician, and able to play multiple instruments from the age of 6 through growing up into his teen years.  At the age of 13, his father (who played trombone in the Marine Band) recruited him into the US Marine Corps band to stop him from joining a circus band.  After leaving the Marine band, John assembled The Sousa Band, which toured 1892-1931.  They performed 15,623 concerts at home and abroad, talk about dedication!

The What Cheer Opera House was built by the Masonic lodge and completed in 1893.  Later, the Masonic lodge decided to build a new temple – with the potential there to destroy the building, it was saved by a movement of those that researched its history and restored the building to its original style by 1973. 

The Opera House was home to many performances by national performers, including Hank Williams, Jr., Guy Lombardo, and Porter Wagoner.  Lawrence Welk and the Glen Miller band played there on a regular basis, and now it is used primarily for local talent. 

At the annual concert in 2015, “the John Philip Sousa Foundation will present a historical marker to the opera house as a memorial to the John Philip Sousa band. These markers have been places in more than 75 Sousa band concert locations. This is the first Iowa site to be designated.”

I believe to be successful moving forward, we do have to have a foundation in history.  It makes life a richer place as this is passed on to future generations.  

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Hi, my name is Chondra Rankin!  My passion is teaching and inspiring YOU how to become prepared to grasp the luxury of designing your life well - so you can live your life... your way!

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