All the votes have been tallied, and “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band has declared its champion for Sousa’s March Mania 2021.
In the final round of competition, Darth Vader’s signature tune could not intimidate “The March King.” This year’s winner is John Philip Sousa’s “Hands Across the Sea!”
Listen to "Hands Across the Sea."
View the final results bracket.
Learn more about Sousa’s March Mania.
“This year one of my dream scenarios has come to pass,” Director Col. Jason K. Fettig said. “Marches by a great friend of the Marine Band, John Williams and the legendary 17th director of ‘The President’s Own,’ John Philip Sousa made an exceptionally strong showing this year.”
From the moment the marches in the Fidelis Four semi-final round were locked into place, this Williams vs. Sousa matchup was inevitable.
The Imperial March’s familiarity with voters (who were perhaps also avid Star Wars fans) carried it through to the final round over Williams’ March from 1941. On the opposing side of the bracket, Sousa’s “Hands Across the Sea” laid a surprising claim to victory against a perennial strong performer in March Mania, “The Washington Post.”
“It was classic versus new; The March King and celebrity from the last century up against one of our greatest living American composers,” Col. Fettig said.
In the end, the driving force behind the Imperial March’s popularity just wasn’t able to stand up to the steadfast Sousa supporters who wanted a traditional march to win. The final votes tallied 16,099 to 14,919.
It’s as if the outcome of this year’s competition was already determined by the storyline of the Star Wars films where light overtakes the dark: The Imperial March is the signature theme for one of the dark side’s greatest villains, whereas “Hands Across the Sea” was released one year after the onset of the Spanish-American War, written to bolster America’s position in maintaining peace around the world.
While each March Mania participant may have pulled for a different march from the start, a number of surprising victories and crushing defeats were always inevitable. With votes totaling in the hundreds of thousands pouring in from across the globe, it has always been anyone’s guess who the winner will be.
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the fun of a competition. Each year the bracket forges staunch supporters of the unlikeliest of marches.
From the start, Percy Grainger’s “Children’s March” had a broad base of supporters, but it just couldn’t stand to John Philip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell,” when it was edged out in the first round by a margin of only 173 votes.
Rocky River High School Band from Ohio tweeted: “’Children’s March’ will be the death of me in this bracket, but I stand by the pick for all the overlooked, downtrodden Bari Sax players in the world who finally have their moment in that piece!”
Florida music educator Cathi Leibinger commented on Facebook: “My students had a moment of silence for ‘Children’s March’ when the results were posted. Many Brackets were busted that day.”
With a record number of schools and students participating, and a new virtual environment stoking engagement with the program, this year’s competition was pure MANIA. Nearly 1,600 music programs across the United States, with more than 170,000 students participated in 2021, as well as countless music lovers around the globe
An Instagram post by the Ontario Christian School Band in California perfectly summarized the purpose of why the Marine Band hosts this yearly competition: “We hope that people vote for what they love, and know that music is ultimately uniting us.”
Even so, it's easy to get competitive. Some matches made it difficult for voters to decide between two favorites. For others, it stirred up a discussion about which ones even deserved to be on the bracket in the first place.
In closing, here are just a few of the hundreds of comments we received during the course of March Mania. Chances are their brackets were busted, but it's all just part of the fun.
The mania begins March 2022. See you then.