“The Aviators” (1931)
Friends and associates of Sousa were constantly telling of his subtle wit. The object of one of his rare pranks was Captain William A. Moffett, the man responsible for his enlistment and commission in the U.S. Navy during World War I. Moffett needed a musician with considerable administrative ability to organize navy band units at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Sousa’s brother-in-law happened to be on Moffett’s staff. He arranged a meeting between Moffett and Sousa to discuss the possibility of obtaining Sousa’s services.
Sousa arrived at a decision quickly but decided to have fun at Moffett’s expense. He indicated that he would like to accept the position but raised the question as to whether or not the navy could meet his salary demand. Moffett realized that Sousa was a wealthy man but had not expected such a blunt approach. He apologized for the navy’s relatively low pay scale and offered Sousa $2,500 per year. Sousa replied: “I refuse to take such a sum! Tell Secretary Daniels that if he wishes for my help in this war he will have to part with not less than one dollar a month for the duration of the conflict.”
Moffett and Sousa became warm friends. Moffett had a distinguished military career, rising to the rank of rear admiral as chief of the navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics. He was later nicknamed “Father of the flattop.” In one of his last musical efforts, Sousa dedicated “The Aviators” to him.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 41. Used by permission.
*PLEASE NOTE: Currently, none of the marches from Volume 7 are in the public domain. Recordings of non-PD marches are only available for streaming on YouTube. To purchase a published edition of this march, please visit the sheet music vendor of your choice.