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John Philip Sousa’s “University of Illinois March” December Podcast

First page of original score and published piano arrangement of “University of Illinois March.”

John Philip Sousa completed his “University of Illinois March” on June 6, 1929 and his Sousa Band gave the first premiere performance of this new work on NBC Radio on June 17 of that same year.  The march’s first performance at the University of Illinois took place on March 7, 1930 during the University Concert Band’s 40th anniversary concert that was held in the University Auditorium.  That concert included performances of Saint-Saen’s Symphonic Poem “Phaeton,” the second movement to Tschaikowsky’s Fourth Symphony, von Weber’s Concerto No. 2 for Clarinet which was played by Russell Howland, Sibelius’ Valse Triste and Tschaikowsky’s waltz from The Swan Lake, Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Respighi’s The Pines of Rome, Haydn Wood’s Miniature Rhapsody “Virginia,” and a trio of marches written for the University of Illinois band which included Alford’s “March of the Illini,” King’s “Pride of the Illini,” and Sousa’s “The University of Illinois March.” The concert also included selections from Romberg’s comedy “The New Moon,” Wagner’s “Tannhauser” Overture, and concluded with a medley of University of Illinois melodies titled “Echoes from the Illini Stadium.”

While Alford and King were able to attended this silver anniversary concert and conduct the Concert Band’s performance of their marches, Sousa was unable to join them for this special performance.  He wrote to Harding “Regret exceedingly will be unable to attend March 7, account of acting as judge of band contest in New York City that date and radio engagement with my band a few days later.  Kindness greetings.”  Sousa eventually made a special trip to the Illinois campus on March 20th and the band gave another public concert that day with Sousa conducting his newly composed march.

Scott Schwartz talks about Sousa’s “University of Illinois March” and his visit to the university campus in another special episode, “Game Day,” which was recorded last month for the University of Illinois Bands monthly Podcasts about America’s and the University’s unique band heritage and its influences on today’s music students.  To learn more about Sousa’s march and his 1930 visit to campus listen to the full December 12th broadcast by visiting https://www.bands.illinois.edu/episodes/.

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