Sousa Archives Will Be Closed December 24, 2015 – January 3, 2016

Herbert L. Clarke (seated) inspecting cornets in the C. G. Conn Band Instrument Factory’s Cornet and Trumpet Testing Department, ca. 1920.

Herbert L. Clarke (1867-1945), cornetist, composer, bandleader, and educator, was considered the “King of the Cornet” in his day. He began studying the violin and cornet at the age of 5, and by the age of 13 was performing professionally in both the Philharmonic Society Orchestra of Toronto on violin and the Queen’s Own Regimental Band on cornet. After moving to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1886 Clarke won a solo cornet contest that was held in Evansville, Indiana. He was awarded a one-of-a-kind pocket cornet made by the famous instrument maker, Henry Distin, who was the judge for this October 10, 1886 cornet contest. Clarke eventually moved to New York City in 1892 and briefly played for the Patrick Gilmore Band. In 1893, Clarke became the solo cornetist for the John Philip Sousa Band, a position he retained throughout 1893 and again between 1900 and 1917. He also served as the band’s assistant conductor during his later years with the Sousa Band. As the band’s solo cornetist Clarke performed in three of Sousa’s four European tours as well as the ensemble’s 1910-1911 World Tour. After leaving Sousa’s band, he became the conductor of the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company Band in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada. Clarke later moved to California to serve as the conductor of the historic Long Beach Municipal Band, a position he retained until 1943. As one of America’s leading cornetists during the early twentieth century, Clarke frequently helped develop and test new cornet and trumpet designs for the C. G. Conn and Frank Holton music instrument companies.

This photograph is from the Herbert L. Clarke Music and Personal Papers which were donated to the University of Illinois in 1945.  For more information on the Clarke collection visit the online finding aid or send an email to the

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