The musical instrument that goes oom-pah-pah is generally known as a tuba, but it is really a helicon and is found in marching bands. In fact, it was built for use in just such a band and has been named the sousa- phone after the great march king John Philip Sousa. This instrument is a bass tuba with a large bell, made in circular form to be worn over the player’s shoulder. It has virtually replaced the tuba in military and school bands. But the name tuba is still common.
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), the son of Portuguese refugees, began his career when he joined the U.S. Marine Band at age thirteen as a trombonist. At nineteen, he began conducting theater orchestras. He went all the way up to bccome bandmaster of the U.S. Marine Corps (1880), a band in which his father had played before him. After twelve years with the Marine Band, Sousa formed his own band in 1892 and became the brassy toast of two continents.
In addition to being a superb band leader, Sousa became the country’s most renowned and prolific composer of marching songs. He composed some 140 military marches, including such classics and perennial favorites as «The Stars and Stripes Forever», «Semper Hdelis», «The Washington Post», «Hands across the Sea», «Liberty Bell», and «The High School Cadets». In addition he wrote eleven operettas, three novels, and an autobiography, Marching Along.