When I took over the office of Archives for the LHAB, part of the position was to decorate the display windows in the hallway of the Music Building. When I unloaded the windows the first time, there was a massive, heavy trophy that I really could not move. While getting help to move it, I read the front of this large piece which noted The Sudler Trophy 1986. Not really ever having seen this, I thought: “Wow, so this is the Sudler Trophy”. I had known that the Longhorn Band had received this award but did not fully understand the whole story of the award. Just in case anyone else is wondering here is the “Rest of the Story”.

The Sudler Trophy, established in 1982, is part of a series of awards presented by the Sousa Foundation. It was awarded annually until 2007 then bi-annually to a college or university band which has demonstrated the highest musical standards and innovative marching routines and ideas. It represents a standard of excellence over time for a college marching band. The award was made possible by a grant from the Louis and Louise Sudler Foundation of Chicago.

To understand the Sousa Foundation, we should first review the life and career of its namesake John Philip Sousa.

Photo of John Philip Sousa wearing a white uniform and white hat.
John Philip Sousa, Encyclopedia Britannica

John Philip Sousa was born on November 6, 1854 in Washington, D.C. He was the third of 10 children and showed musical talent at an early age. His father was a trombonist in the Marine Band and encouraged his son to develop his talent. Sousa studied violin, piano, singing, and several brass instruments. Sousa’s father signed him to a minority enlistment as an apprentice to the Marine Band when he was 13. This enlistment would last until John’s 21st birthday. The back story is that his father signed him up as an apprentice in order to keep him from joining a circus band. John performed with the Marine Band and became its conductor in 1880. The Marine Band was a performing fixture in Washington and John conducted The President’s Own for 5 presidents during his time with the Marine Band: Rutherford B Hayes, James Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, and Benjamin Harrison. Sousa is credited with the development of the Sousaphone. He wanted a tuba that would project outward with its sound and show even when the musician was seated. It was created by J.W. Pepper from the helicon and later was recreated in 1898 by C.G. Conn.

Sousa was a prolific composer penning 136 military marches including Semper Fidelis in 1888 which is the official march of the US Marine Corp, Washington Post in 1889, The Liberty Bell in 1893, and Stars and Stripes Forever in 1897. He also composed 11 operettas, 70 songs, 11 waltzes, 11 suites, 14 humoresques and 27 fantasias. He was given the title of “The March King” by an English journalist. This is a most appropriate title since Sousa wrote some of the most famous band marches ever created. His original baton is passed to each new marine band conductor symbolizing an unbroken line of musical excellence.

The Sousa Foundation is a nonprofit organization promoting international understanding through the medium of band music. It was founded in 1980 and has its headquarters in Lafeyette, Indiana.

Some of the awards include:
The Sudler Flag of Honor
Begun in 1983 recognizing outstanding high school bands. Is the highest award a high school band can achieve.

The Sudler National High School Honor Band
Begun in 1981 selecting 100 outstanding high school musicians each year.

The Sudler Cup
Begun in 1981 honoring outstanding middle school and junior high bands.

The Sudler Silver Scroll
Begun in 1983 honoring outstanding community bands.

The Sudler Shield
Begun in 1987 honoring high school marching bands.

The International Composition Competition
Begun in 1983 honoring outstanding band composition.

As the award names imply, the major funding for the Sousa Foundation comes from the Louis and Louise Sudler Foundation of Chicago. Louis Sudler was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1903 and was the head of one of the most successful real estate firms in the city. He was a lover of music and was a professional baritone performing with the Chicago Civic Opera Company. He was a major supporter of the Chicago Symphony funding its first trip to Europe in 1971.

The presentation of the Sudler Trophy to the Longhorn Band was held at Memorial Stadium in Austin on September 13, 1986 which was the 25th annual reunion of the LHAB. In response to requests from LHAB members, such as this letter by then LHAB President Alan Ford, the University agreed to light the Tower orange with the outline of the “1” in honor of the achievement.

The Sudler Trophy is recognition of the excellence that the LHB has achieved over the years. All of us who have participated in the LHB understand that level of excellence and work to maintain it. Even if you were not in the LHB at the time of this presentation, you can still take pride in the achievement. If you are a current or future member of the LHB, always strive to live up to the standards that merited this award in 1986.

Thanks to Alan Ford, Donna Beth McCormick and Catherine Whited for contributions to this Archives post.

Barbara Childs Helbert
Archives LHAB