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Precious Metal

James T. Rohner | December 2021 January 2022

Precious Metal

    When a letter arrived from a jewelry store a few years ago offering us some of the components of the Sousa award that were made decades ago, we were skeptical and asked to look at them. They turned out to be genuine and included three Sousa heads that fit on plaques, two American flags with the award name, and several deskpiece heads.
    We mounted the Sousa heads on the current marble base (see photo above). These are gorgeous works of art that date from the late 1950s or early 1960s. We will donate these five Sousa deskpieces to schools that request them, with preference to schools that have given the award for the longest time. Directors who apply for the awards should describe their school’s award program over the decades. Send emails to

The Instrumentalist, December 1954

    The November 1954 issue of The Instrumentalist celebrated the centennial of Sousa’s birth and announced a new award in his honor. The following issue included endorsements from his daughters, Helen and Priscilla.
    At that time, the award and plaque had yet to be designed. Enter the House of Williams in Chicago, a jeweler we chose to design and produce the awards. I recall going along on several trips downtown to check on progress, but details of the meetings were lost on a boy of 14. Our records show that the first Sousa awards were sent out to schools in April 1955, and about 175 were ordered in the first year.
    The award soon outgrew the capabilities of the House of Williams and were produced thereafter by award and trophy manufacturers. Along the way the original method of stamping out the Sousa bust under thousands of pounds of pressure gave way to diecasting, in which molten metal is poured  into a mold.
    Directors received news of the new Sousa Award with enthusiasm, but few exceeded O.W. Joiner who wrote:

        I wish to place an order for the John Philip Sousa Band Award even though I do not have all the details. I am convinced that if The Instrumentalist sponsors it, it must be good. (That will cost you 25 cents.)
        Actually, I am a firm believer in this kind of award. My Band Mother organization gave me the go ahead on ordering this. We have our annual band banquet in April so I, of course, want to make this award then.
    O.W. (Ollie) Joiner
    Band Director
    Griswold High School
    Griswold, Iowa

    We are pleased to note that the Sousa Award is still given at Griswold High School, and we hope their faith in us has been fulfilled.

James T. Rohner
Publisher Emeritus