WASHINGTON -- From his bedroom window, Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gino Madrid of Washington, D.C., can hear the band at the Marine Corps Barracks a block away.
"It's kind of cool," Sgt. Madrid said. "They've been practicing a lot."
Practicing is good: There are important concerts this month because Nov. 6 was the birthday of John Philip Sousa (1854-1932), the most famous Marine Corps bandmaster.
Sgt. Madrid plays violin in The President's Own, the official name of the band that Sousa led from 1880-92.
But Sgt. Madrid has another connection to Sousa. In 2008, when he was looking to buy a house, he saw a listing for a brick rowhouse on G Street. It was Sousa's childhood home. Sgt. Madrid bought the historic house and has lived there ever since.
From the same bedroom windows where Sousa lived there from 1854-72, Sgt. Madrid can hear Sousa's music, including "Stars and Stripes Forever," the Marines Corps march "Semper Fidelis" and "U.S. Field Artillery," the official song of the U.S. Army, as well as marches for several universities.
The Marines have a kids page on their website (www.marineband.usmc.mil/kids_corner), where you can learn all about the music.
Sousa started playing the violin at age 6 and went on to sing and study the piano, trombone and other instruments. He was so good at it that his dad, who played trombone, brought him into the Marines as an apprentice at age 13.
"My story is a little simpler," Sgt. Madrid said with a laugh.
His mom encouraged all her kids to play an instrument, he remembers, and, like Sousa, he began with violin and piano. He sang in a boys choir when the family lived in Houston, but he stuck with the violin through high school in Los Angeles, then at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He joined the Marines after college and has played in the band for 15 years.
"I'm glad the house can stay in the Marines, and me and my friends can play Sousa music there," Sgt. Madrid said.