Semper Fidelis

From Wind Repertory Project
John Philip Sousa

John Philip Sousa

General Info

Year: 1888
Duration: c. 2:40
Difficulty: IV (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Harry Coleman
Cost: Score and Parts - Out of print.

For availability information, see Discussion tab, above.

Instrumentation (some parts missing)

Cornet Score
D-flat Piccolo
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Saxophone
E-flat Soprano Cornet
Cornets Solo-I-II-III
E-flat Horn or Alto I-II-III-IV
Tenor Horn
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Snare Drum


  • Flute I and C Piccolo, 1st m. of 2nd strain (3rd system, m.7): C-E should read E-G.
  • B-flat Clarinet, II, 3rd meas. before Trio, beat 4: B should read C (ledger line is missing).
  • B-flat Tenor Saxophone. 4th strain, meas. 5, beat 3 (7th system, meas. 3): clarify note to read C.
  • B-flat Tenor Saxophone. 4th strain, meas. 15, beat 2 (8th system, meas. 4): A should read B.

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

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

  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Ryan Nowlin, conductor) - 14 October 2023 (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 31 August 2023
  • University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Symphonic Band (Chase Jones, conductor) — 26 April 2023
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Darren Y. Lin, conductor) - 5 February 2023
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 23 October 2022 (New London, Conn.)
  • Vandegrift High School (Austin, Tx.) Wind Ensemble (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) - 17 December 2021 (2021 Midwest Clinic)
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Ryan J. Nowlin, conductor) - 3 June 2021
  • Dallas (Tx.) Winds (Jerry Junkin, conductor) - 24 April 2021
  • State College Area (Penn.) Municipal Band (Darrin Thornton, conductor) – 10 November 2019
  • Arkansas State University (Jonesboro) Wind Ensemble( Timothy Oliver, conductor) – 20 September 2019
  • Winchendon (Mass.) Winds (James Chesebrough, conductor) - 1 July 2018
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (John R. Bourgeois, conductor) – 25 March 2018
  • United States Marine Band (Washington, D.C.) (Michelle A. Rakers, conductor) – 11 March 2018
  • Texas All-State Symphonic Band (Jason Fettig, conductor) - 17 February 2018 (2018 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • Independence High School (Bakersfield, Calif.) Wind Symphony (David Green, conductor) - 24 March 2016 (2016 Sutherland Wind Festival (Fresno, Calif.)
  • United States Marine Band (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 20 January 2017 (Presidential Inauguration)
  • Allegheny College (Penn.) Band Camp for Adult Musicians (Timothy Foley, conductor) – 1 July 2016
  • United States Marine Band (Jason K. Fettig, conductor) – 10 January 2016

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

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