Van Fossen, John (1903-1994) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Van Fossen, John (1903-1994)

Historical Note:

John Van Fossen, clarinetist for the John Philip Sousa Band from 1925 until 1931, was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania.  He began playing the clarinet at the age of ten.  As an adult, he played in several regional bands including the John Wannamaker Band, conducted by Sousa's colleague, Arthur Rosander, saxophonist and librarian for the Sousa Band between 1909 and 1911.

At the age of twenty-one Van Fossen became a member of the Sousa Band.  In a 1989 interview  he described the sense of stage fright that he experienced during his first performance under Sousa's baton, "When we went into 'Stars and Stripes' for the finale, all of sudden I couldn't play.  I was entranced by everything.  I found out later that the same thing happened to most musicians in their first performance."

After leaving the Sousa Band in 1931, Van Fossen went on to play for the Pat Conway Band, the Arcadians, a jazz band with its own radio program in Philadelphia, and the Arthur Pryor Band, which was considered by many to be second only to the Sousa Band.

Sources: Paul E. Bierley. The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa.  Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
Note Author: Scott Schwartz

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