Semper Fidelis (arr Bourgeois)

From Wind Repertory Project
John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa (ed. John R. Bourgeois)

General Info

Year: 1888 / 1996
Duration: c. 2:50
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Wingert-Jones Publications
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $55.00   |   Score Only (print) - $8.00


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

  • Bass Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Snare Drum


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

It is unfortunate that President Chester A. Arthur, the man responsible for this march, did not live to hear it. In a conversation with Sousa, then leader of the U.S. Marine Band, he expressed his displeasure at the official use of the song Hail to the Chief. When Sousa stated that it was actually an old Scottish boating song, the President suggested that he compose more appropriate music. Sousa responded with two pieces, not one. First he composed Presidential Polonaise (1886). Then, two years after Arthur’s death, he wrote Semper Fidelis.

The march takes its title from the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps: “Semper Fidelis” — “Always Faithful.” The trio is an extension of an earlier Sousa composition, With Steady Step, one of eight brief trumpet and drum pieces he wrote for The Trumpet and Drum (1886). It was dedicated to those who inspired it — the officers and men of the U.S. Marine Corps. In Sousa’s own words: “I wrote Semper Fidelis one night while in tears, after my comrades of the Marine Corps had sung their famous hymn at Quantico."

For the first performance, Sousa demonstrated his flair for theatrics:

“We were marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, and had turned the corner at the Treasury Building. On the reviewing stand were President Harrison, many members of the diplomatic corps, a large part of the House and Senate, and an immense number of invited guests besides. I had so timed our playing of the march that the ‘trumpet’ theme would be heard for the first time, just as we got to the front of the reviewing stand. Suddenly ten extra trumpets were shot in the air, and the ‘theme’ was pealed out in unison. Nothing like it had ever been heard there before — when the great throng on the stand had recovered its surprise, it rose in a body, and led by the President himself, showed its pleasure in a mighty swell of applause. It was a proud moment for us all.”

Semper Fidelis subsequently gained recognition as the official march of the U.S. Marine Corps. Sousa regarded it as his best march, musically speaking. It became one of his most popular marches, and he once stated that it was the favorite march of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany — before World War I, of course. It was played by the Sousa Band in many foreign countries and always received acclaim as a well-known composition. Few knew that it had been sold outright to the publisher for the unbelievably low sum of $35.

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

Semper Fidelis is considered by many musicians to be Sousa’s most musical and inspired march. Dedicated to the U.S. Marine Corps, and subsequently adopted as its official march, he once described his feelings concerning its creation: “I wrote Semper Fidelis one night while in tears, after my comrades of the Marine Corps had sung their famous hymn at Quantico.” Part of the trio was taken from his first book, Trumpet and Drum, published two years earlier in 1886. In his book The Works of John Philip Sousa, Paul Bierley describes how this march was premiered during a parade for President Harrison, members of Congress, and an immense number of invited guests. As Sousa’s Band came into view and reached the reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue, the trumpet section (with ten extra members) pealed out the theme in the trio. “Nothing like it had ever been heard there before.... It was a proud moment for us all.”

Sousa died of a heart attack in Reading, Pennsylvania, on March 6, 1932. On March 10 the Marine Band played Semper Fidelis in dirge time during his funeral procession.

- Program Note from Program Notes for Band


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Oklahoma State University (Stillwater) Wind Ensemble (Bradley Genervo, conductor) - 24 October 2023
  • Lone Star Symphonic Band (Katy, Tx.) (Bob Bryant, conductor) - 2 July 2023
  • Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) Wind Ensemble (Craig A. Hancock, conductor) - 10 April 2022
  • Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.) Symphony Band (Kevin Gray Richardson, conductor) – 28 April 2019
  • Appalachian State University (Boone, N.C.) Concert Band (Onsby C. Rose, conductor) – 25 April 2016

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. 71.
  • Smith, Norman E. (2002). Program Notes for Band. Chicago: GIA Publications, pp. 555.
  • Sousa, J.; Bourgeois, J. (1996). Semper Fidelis: March [score]. Wingert-Jones Music: Kansas City, Mo.