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Strike Up the Band!

John Philip Sousa at the podium, Hershey Convention Hall. July 4, 1925
John Philip Sousa at the podium, Hershey Convention Hall. July 4, 1925

Summer in Hershey means concerts. This past weekend the Dave Matthews Band came to Hershey, bringing traffic and tens of 1000s of fans to our community. Presenting internationally recognized stars, such as Dave Matthews, is nothing new for Hershey.  Our community has been a destination for top performers since the early 1910s.

The Convention Hall, constructed in 1915, was a perfect venue for headliners. The facility seated 6000 people. The addition of such a performance hall, created the perfect place for nationally recognized performers to appear in Hershey.

In 1925 John Philip Sousa and his band came to Hershey for the first time, opening its touring season over the Fourth of July weekend (July 4-5). An internationally acclaimed conductor, he toured and performed to sold-out crowds in the United States and around the world. Unlike many other popular conductors, Sousa conducted every concert. The Sousa band did not have any assistant conductors. His concerts featured many of his own compositions as well as other popular music.

At that time Sousa was 71 years old and still actively composing music. During the two days, Sousa conducted 4 concerts. Over 10,000 people came to hear him perform, with many more people listening outside standing by the Convention Hall’s windows. The success of the Sousa concerts led to an invitation to return to Hershey the following year.

In 1926, Sousa returned to Hershey again starting his touring season in Hershey, performing four concerts over July 4th and 5th. Attendance was less, with 5,000 guests. Heavy rains over the two days, with July 5th falling on a Monday, contributed to the smaller crowds.

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