Flat Sousa Visits the Library of Congress During Society of American Archivists 2014 Annual Meeting

Flat Sousa with the Louisville Underground Music Archive Project Team (l to r) Sarah-Jane Poindexter, Heather Fox and Elizabeth Reilly (back), and their allies Deirdre Scaggs (University of Kentucky) and Emily Hikes (University of Pittsburgh).

In 1924 John Philip Sousa tentatively decided to donate his music collection to the Library of Congress, the “people’s library.” He was motivated in part by the disrespectful handling of the Victor Herbert estate after his passing that year. Despite Herbert’s great influence on America’s leading composers throughout his life, large portions of his music were auctioned off for what Sousa considered to be unfairly low prices. As Sousa reflected on his own mortality and the fear that his music and legacy might experience the same fate, the “March King” publically declared that he would prefer to give away his vast collection of original manuscripts and published scores rather than allow them to be unappreciated, unperformed, and forgotten. After Sousa’s death on March 6, 1932, the majority of the Sousa Band music library (39 trunks and 2 boxes) was donated to the University of Illinois, and placed in the care of A. Austin Harding and the University Band. While Sousa never publically stated why he had changed his mind regarding the final home to preserve his music and papers, his bequest to the University of Illinois ensured his music legacy would continue to live on through the long-term preservation and performances of his music by the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music and the University of Illinois bands.

Flat Sousa joined the members of the Louisville Underground Music Archive project team and their allies who are working on a local music preservation initiative that is similar to the Urbana-Champaign local music initiative that the Sousa Archives implemented in 2013. The members of both preservation teams as well as their colleagues from the Northeast Ohio Popular Music Archives met in Washington, DC in August to discuss ways to help complement their local music initiatives.

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