Since 2014, “The President’s Own” (United States Marine Band) has hosted “Sousa’s March Mania,” a competition in which students and online fans around the globe gather behind their favorite marches as they progress through a series of matches and toward the final elimination stage. In its seventh year, it was a Fucik battle to the end, with Julius Fucik’s “Entry of the Gladiators” fighting his “Florentine” in the final round.
At the end of 2019, the directors of the naval band selected 32 marches to complete the 2020 round. The competition started with 18 marches by composers called the “King of Marches”: John Philip Sousa, Julius Fucik, Charles Ives, Percy Grainger, Karl L. King, Gustav Holst, Ludwig van Beethoven and some other great composers. Here is the complete list.
Before the competition, more than 900 band leaders and music teachers with almost 100,000 students had registered. During the daily rehearsals the participants were confronted with music by these composers. Teachers reported that “Sousas March Mania” was an entertaining forum to introduce the marches to younger students and encourage them to listen to online band music by these composers.
This competition was also important because the closure of the schools due to corona conditions meant that the pupils could also do this ‘together’ from home. The spokesperson for Clarkstown High School’s North Band department added: “This year was even more important for the students. They listened to the marches and voted daily at home. This gave them a sense of normality in this difficult time.”
While the students benefit from the educational aspect of mania, they were not the only ones to learn and listen to some marches for the first time. One student reported: “I had never heard “Moorside” before this year, and it is so beautiful. I am 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 sixteen-round, “Semper Fidelis” prevailed against Percy Grainger’s “Children’s March” with only 41 votes: 3,699 to 3,658. But Sousa’s March “The Honored Dead“, a favorite from last year, was eliminated against Gustav Holst’s “Moorside March”.
In the final, two marches were finally chosen: “Entry of the gladiators” and “Florentines”. In the end the fans voted the “Florentiner” to win with 4,911 to 4,454 points.