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Sousa Season Opener

Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Rust

Marine Band Begins 2024 with Annual Sousa Season Opener

17 Jan 2024 | Staff Sgt. Isaac Mei United States Marine Band

“The President’s Own” United States Marine Band invites you to attend the Sousa Season Opener on Sunday, Jan. 21 to begin the 2024 concert season. The concert will begin at 2 p.m. at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center located on Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria Campus. Audience members can also watch virtually via livestream.

The concert is free, but tickets are required and can be obtained here

This will be the first concert featuring Lt. Col. Ryan Nowlin as the band’s director. Nowlin became the 29th director of “The President’s Own” after a change of command ceremony on Dec. 20, 2023, during The Midwest Clinic in Chicago.  

Lt. Col. Nowlin first joined the band in 2010 as a staff arranger. He became the band’s Assistant Director in 2014 and Associate Director in 2018. “The directorship is the honor of a lifetime,” Nowlin said, “a stewardship of American musical and ceremonial history which I approach with the utmost reverence and respect.” 

The concert will feature multiple marches by John Philip Sousa including crowd favorites “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Semper Fidelis” as well as “The Black Horse Troop,” which turns 100 years old this year. 
Nowlin said of the concert’s program: “This program is designed in the style of Sousa himself, which is to also say the style of many Marine Band concerts over the course of our history since the March King’s departure in 1892: classic overtures, world-class soloists on impressive technical features, stunning operatic vocals, time-honored works that now live in the heart of the band canon, and of course…marches, marches, marches! A little something for everyone.” 

Sousa is responsible for bringing the United States Marine Band to an unprecedented level of excellence. He began his career as an apprentice musician with the band at age 13 and remained in the band until he was 20, leaving for Philadelphia to work as a composer, arranger, and proofreader for publishing houses. While on tour in St. Louis, he received a telegram offering him the leadership of the Marine Band. He accepted and reported for duty on Oct. 1, 1880, becoming the band’s 17th director at just 25 years of age. Sousa’s intimate knowledge of the band, coupled with his great ability, provided the ideal medium to showcase the marches which would earn him the title the “March King.” 

“I love this concert because it’s fun!” Nowlin said. “The people, the camaraderie, the enthusiastic audience, the connection with history and tradition, and most of all, the music.” 

The concert will also feature various displays of Sousa history, including the doctorate academic hood worn by Sousa when receiving his honorary Ph.D. in Music from Marquette University, as well as the diploma itself.