“The Occidental” (1887)
With important manuscripts unaccounted for, no dedication specified on the printed music, and no mention in Sousa’s memoirs, it is not known why this piece was given its name. One possibility which must not be overlooked is that Occidental College, in Los Angeles, was founded in the year that Sousa composed this march. “The Occidental” was not published until four years after it was written.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 75. Used by permission.
Since the publishing of Paul Bierley’s book The Works of John Philip Sousa, further research has been done regarding "The Occidental." Despite the tantalizing coincidence that Occidental College in Los Angeles was founded in the same year the march was written, a search of the college’s archives yielded no evidence of any connection between the two. While there are other possible inspirations for this march—including hotels named The Occidental in both San Francisco and Washington, D.C.—it is also true that "Occidental" was a popular name in the late nineteenth century for all kinds of businesses, buildings, and works of art. Faced with so many possibilities, it is likely that it will never be known for certain why Sousa titled this march as he did or why he waited four years to publish it.
Many thanks to band director and researcher Jay Kahn for his extensive study into the history of this march.