Sousa’s March Mania

Sousa’s March Mania

While college basketball fans enjoy predicting winning teams during March Madness, musicians and music fans alike joined in on their own version of a “march” bracket in hopes that their favorite song would reach the No. 1 spot. During the friendly competition, many students also received educational material on the 32 marches.

In Sousa’s March Mania, created by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, individuals voted online daily between March 4 and April 3 for their favorite marches in head-to-head dogfights. The winning song advanced to the next battle against a different march until the ultimate winner prevailed.

In 2019, John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” which has won the competition a few times previously, beat out “The Circus Bee” by Henry Fillmore.

Nearly 800 teachers and an estimated 100,000 students participated in the competition, says Capt. Ryan Nowlin, U.S. Marine Band executive officer and senior assistant director. To accompany the bracket, the U.S. Marine Band created lesson plans that teachers could use in their classrooms.

“I think it’s a fun alternative for the first five [or] 10 minutes in a classroom period during this time of the year to just play these marches for the kids and take a classroom vote and then go online later and enter the votes for the students,” Nowlin says. “It can be a nice diversion or a change of pace in the band director’s schedule and what those students learn day to day.”

The competition was not limited to students and educators; anyone who was interested in marches could listen to the songs and vote online.

Launched in 2014, Sousa’s March Mania coincides with Music in Our Schools Month and March Madness. Nowlin says that the U.S. Marine Band hopes to continue expanding the competition’s global reach.

Visit to view the bracket.

About author

Nicole Roberts

Nicole Roberts is the city hall reporter for the News Tribune in Jefferson City, Missouri. She graduated from Missouri State University with a degree in print/internet journalism and a minor in psychology. She played clarinet in the Missouri State Pride Band and in her high school’s marching band.

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