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Looking Upward Suite

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John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa (ed. John R. Bourgeois)

General Info

Year: 1902 / 1904 / 1999
Duration: c. 18:20
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano
Publisher: Wingert-Jones
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $95.00   |   Score Only (print) - $20.00


1. By the Light of the Polar Star – 4:50
2. Beneath the Southern Cross – 6:20
3. Mars and Venus – 7:10


Full Score
C Piccolo/Flute I-II-III-IV
Oboe I-II
English Horn (optional)
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Cornet I-II-III
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bells
  • Castanets
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Sleigh Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam
  • Triangle
  • Whip
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The inspiration for the first movement of this suite came on a crisp South Dakota night while Sousa was looking at the heavens from the window of his train. The second was inspired by an advertisement about the steamship Southern Cross. The idea for the third movement, like the first, came while Sousa was gazing at the heavens on a clear evening. Several months later, when the suite was developed from his sketches, Sousa borrowed two melodies form the first movement of Act II of Chris and the Wonderful Lamp, his operetta of 1899.

- Program Note from John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog of His Works

Sousa's suites were prominently featured in his band concerts, but they do not enjoy great popularity today. One of the reasons for this neglect is because Sousa, like Victor Herbert, could interpret his own music far more effectively than any other conductor. However, Col. Bourgeois's interpretation of this suite has been well received by audiences.

In general, Sousa's suites served admirably as a sort of middle ground between the classics and music for entertainment. Inasmuch as the Sousa-style concert was much different from concerts presented today, it is perhaps understandable that the suites have fallen into a class known as "period music." Some conductors who are champions of Sousa's music are quick to point out that in many cases this categorization is unjustified.

One of the distinguishing features of Looking Upward is the pair of drum rolls in the third movement, Mars and Venus, which begin as whispers, slowly swell into thunderous roars and then diminish to the original whispers. This unique effect surprised audiences, and since Sousa never left written notes telling what it was intended to represent, an explanation is left to the listener's imagination.

I. By the Light of the Polar Star

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way,
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.

- Old song

II. Under the Southern Cross

Above the slim minaret,
Two stars of twilight glow,
The lute and bright castanet
Sound in the dusk below.
Look from thy lattice,
Gulnare, Gulnare.
Stars of twilight glow,
Now through the nearing night
Four stars in glory rise -
Two the pale heavens light.
Two are thy shining eyes.

- MacDonough

III. Mars and Venus

He was a soldier off to war.
She was a sweet young soul.
She sang of love and he of glory,
And together they told the same old story.
After the drummers roll, my lad,
After the drummer's roll.

- Old, old son

- Program Note from score


State Ratings



To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Lehigh University (Bethlehem, Penn.) Wind Ensemble (David Diggs, conductor) - 1 May 2022
  • University of North Dakota (Grand Forks) Wind Ensemble (James Popejoy, conductor) - 12 October 2021
  • Northshore Concert Band (Evanston, Ill.) (Mallory Thompson, conductor) – 3 November 2019
  • Washington and Lee University (Lexington, Va.) Wind Ensemble (Colette Fuller, conductor) – 1 April 2019
  • Washington and Lee University (Lexington, Va.) University Wind Ensemble (Carissa Petzold, conductor) – 3 December 2018
  • University of Illinois (Champaign) Wind Orchestra (Beth Peterson, conductor) – 20 April 2018
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) Symphony Band (Caroline Hand, conductor) – 24 March 2017
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Wind Ensemble (John R. Locke, conductor) – 20 October 2016
  • Bellefonte (Penn.) Community Band (Joshua E. Long, conductor) – 13 March 2016
  • United States Marine Band (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 11 January 2015
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.) Wind Symphony (Cynthia Johnston Turner, conductor) – 3 March 2012 (CBDNA 2012 Eastern Division Conference, College Park, Md.)

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works


  • Bierley, P. (1973). John Philip Sousa: A Descriptive Catalog of His Works. University of Illinois Press; Urbana, pp. 84-85.
  • Sousa, J.; Bourgeois, J. (1999). Looking Upward Suite: For Concert Band [score]. Wingert-Jones Music: Kansas City, Mo.