Traverse City Record-Eagle

Reflections

September 7, 2009

Sousa-mania: 10K attended concert

10,000 flocked to Interlochen band concert in 1930

INTERLOCHEN -- With school band season kicking in and the music festival season winding down, think about putting two together.

Then you might understand why some 10,000 people swarmed into Interlochen camp on July 28, 1930.

The crowds were there to see John Philip Sousa conduct the fledgling National High School Orchestra Camp's band and 15 area high school bands in two Sunday concerts at the Bowl, an outdoor amphitheater. The camp, now known as Interlochen Arts Academy, is next door to Interlochen State Park, south of Traverse City.

Sousa was 75 then and considered the king of American bandmasters. The music camp was just a babe in the woods.

Joseph Maddy, a University of Michigan music professor, had founded the camp just two years before at a time when high school bands and school music programs were still a cause -- and something Sousa strongly supported. In fact, the nation's "March King" was the first and most famous of early celebrities Maddy invited to Interlochen to attract talented music students and bolster the reputation of his summer camp for high school musicians.

Excitement was high at the music camp that summer. Many today consider Sousa America's first superstar. He had conducted the U.S. Marine Band from 1880 to 1892 and then formed the popular Sousa Band, which he conducted almost till the end of his life. It was the first American musical organization to go on world tour and was a popular musical act for more than 30 years.

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