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From a list of 32 marches, the competition came down to a pair of marches by Julius Fucik, the "Czech March King." In a close fight to the finish, Florentiner was crowned the 2020 Sousa's March Mania Champion, beating Entry of the Gladiators 4,911 to 4,454!

Photo by U.S. Marine Band

Fucik Fight to the Finish: Sousa’s March Mania 2020

3 Apr 2020 | Gunnery Sgt. Rachel Ghadiali United States Marine Band

Since 2014, “The President’s Own” has hosted Sousa’s March Mania, a competition in which students and online fans around the globe rally behind their favorite marches as they advance through a series of match-ups and onto the championship game. Now in its 7th year, it was a Fucik fight to the finish with Julius Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators” battling his “Florentiner” in the final round. Ultimately, fans voted “Florentiner” to victory with a score of 4,911 to 4,454.

In late 2019, the directors of the Marine Band chose 32 marches to complete the 2020 bracket. The competition began with 18 marches by the competition’s namesake John Philip Sousa—“The March King,” and works by Julius Fucik—the “Czech March King,” Charles Ives, Percy Grainger, Karl L. King, Gustav Holst, Ludwig van Beethoven, and several other great composers.

Prior to the competition, more than 900 band directors and music educators signed up to participate with almost 100,000 students. As in previous years, resources for participants included program notes, a YouTube playlist, lesson plan resources, a March Mania crown, a digital participation certificate, and stickers featuring a customized logo for each march.

The daily matches exposed participants to new music while also enjoying a spirit of competition. Teachers have reported that Sousa’s March Mania has been a fun-filled forum to introduce marches to younger students and encourage them to listen to band music online.

Kathy Boster said, “Thank you for doing this, especially this year. With the school closures keeping us apart, this was something my students could do ‘together.’”

Spokesperson for the Clarkstown High School North Band Department added, “It was even more important to the students this year. They listened to the marches and voted daily at home. It gave a sense of normalcy during this difficult time.”

And while students benefit from the educational aspect of the mania, they weren’t the only ones learning and hearing marches for the first time.

Kristen Bellissimo Gentile reported, “I had never heard Moorside before this year, and it’s so lovely. Very happy to discover it!”

In the first round of the competition, Sousa’s march “The Liberty Bell,” a favorite in 2019, lost by only five votes to Charles Ives' “They are There.” Later in the Sousa’s Sixteen round, “Semper Fidelis” prevailed by only 41 votes over Percy Grainger’s Children’s March: 3,699 to 3,658. But Sousa’s march “The Honored Dead,” a favorite from last year, was laid to rest when it lost to Gustav Holst’s “Moorside March.”

During the Enlisted Eight round, Ray S. Richardson said, “Oh, no! Please don’t make me choose between these two fine marches.”

Another voter thought it was ironic to have Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators” take on the Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis,” the official march of the Marine Corps. The Gladiators charged ahead to pummel Semper Fi, securing the first spot in the Fidelis Four.

But it finally came down to two marches: “Entry of the Gladiators” and “Florentiner.” Greg S. Kauriga felt very strongly about which march should win: “Florentiner has much more nuance than Gladiators ... To me Gladiators is more flash ... I had ‘Florentiner’ from the start to win. ... I just like ‘Florentiner’ more.”

Upon Florentiner’s victory: “Thank God!” Nathan Caldwell exclaimed. “Finally a non-mainstream atypical march that isn’t overplayed.”

As fan Robert Piper put it, “Poor Sousa.” And Jean Dolan: “Czech-mate!”

Thanks to everyone for a great competition this year! To revisit the marches, bracket and additional materials from Sousa’s March Mania 2020, click here.