Preservation Hall Lessons – Sousaphone Introduction with Preservation Hall Sousaphonist Kerry Lewis

Sousaphone Introduction

GRADE: 9-12
GENRE: Traditional Jazz
TOPIC: Sousaphone
DISCIPLINE: Harmonizing Instruments


In this lesson, students will be able to describe the role of the Sousaphone in New Orleans music. They will explore notable Sousaphone players, the origins of the instrument, identify and maintain the parts of the instrument. 



  • Identify the origins of the Sousaphone. 
  • Identify notable Sousaphone players from New Orleans.
  • Describe the role of the Sousaphone within New Orleans music.
  • Locate and describe the parts of the instrument.
  • Assemble the Sousaphone.
  • Provide proper maintenance for the Sousaphone.



National Core Arts Standards

Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 1 Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.
Music – Harmonizing Instruments, Anchor Standard 4 Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.



Students should have knowledge of an instrument and an understanding of the lines and spaces on the musical staff. Teachers should review the lesson resources, media, and websites prior to launching the lesson.





  1. Introduce the Sousaphone to students by showing them the instrument. Tell students the Sousaphone has been a vital instrument in New Orleans Music. The Sousaphone is a non-transposing instrument. A non-transposing instrument is a Concert Pitch instrument. The Sousaphone was invented by James W. Pepper and John Phillips Sousa. In 1908 Sousa incorporated the instrument into the U.S. Marine Band. At this time the Sousaphone was originally known as an instrument used in the Symphony, but because of its shape, as opposed to a Tuba, the Sousaphone is able to sound above or over the band. New Orleans and Brass Bands adopted the instrument when Sousa had the idea to have the Sousaphone in marching bands. Display slide 3 of the presentation, Sousaphone Introduction, to hear a funky groove line introduced by Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, “Go to the Mardi Gras” on Sousaphone


  1. Display slide 4 of the presentation, Sousaphone Introduction, to explore the Greats of New Orleans Sousaphone. These include Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen (Olympia Jazz Band), Alan and Benji Jaffe (Preservation Hall), Kirk Joseph, Jeffrey Hill, Edward Lee (Rebirth Brass Band), Dimitri Smith, and Michael Foster (The Michael Foster Project). Alan Jaffe, the Founder of Preservation Hall, was a great Sousaphone player that played Early New Orleans Jazz. Following his dad’s footsteps, Sousaphone player, Benji Jaffe, plays Early New Orleans style music and modern/contemporary styles of New Orleans Jazz. Tuba Fats was a modern Brass Band innovator. Following the footsteps of Tuba Fats, the modern/contemporary era exploded into New Orleans culture, credited to the likes of Kirk Joseph, Edward Lee, Jeffrey Hill, and Dimitri Smith. 


  1. Tell students the Sousaphone is known as the backbone/foundation of New Orleans Brass Band Music. The Sousaphone plays the bass tones and arpeggios of the chords. With the influence of African and Latin beats, the rhythmic flavor with percussion makes the Sousaphone an essential part of New Orleans music. Display slide 5 of the presentation, Sousaphone Introduction, to listen to a New Orleans classic, “The Saints.” 



  1. Show the students a Sousaphone. Ask: Why is the Sousaphone an essential instrument in New Orleans Traditional Jazz and Brass Band?  Display slide 6 of the presentation, Sousaphone Introduction, to review the anatomy of the Sousaphone. Identify the parts of the instrument with students: mouthpiece, mouthpiece receiver, bits, neck, bell, water key, first valve, second valve, and third valve. Students can also use a shoulder pad which is designed to cushion the weight of the Sousaphone on your shoulder, and a bow protector to avoid cracking or denting the tubing. Allow time for students to analyze and discuss the anatomy of the Sousaphone.


  1. Display slide 7 of the presentation, Sousaphone Introduction, to review the Sousaphone Assembly instructions. Tell students that proper assembly of the Sousaphone is important because the mouthpiece part could get jammed into the receiver if not properly assembled, and the bits could get jammed into the mouthpiece. First, place the body of the Sousaphone between your thighs, perpendicular to a flat surface, and gently apply the bell to the body. Second, connect the neck to the mouthpiece receiver. Third, apply the bits (2) to the neck. Fourth, attach the mouthpiece to the bits. 


  1. Have students practice attaching the bell to the body. Connect the neck to the mouthpiece receiver, apply the bits to the neck, and attach the mouthpiece to the bits. Facilitate the room to provide support for students. Tell students the importance of this practice is to avoid a major problem that requires more serious maintenance or repair. If a Sousaphone has a jammed mouthpiece, an instructor or teacher should use a Mouthpiece Puller to remove the mouthpiece without damage to the Sousaphone. 


  1. Display slide 8 of the presentation, Sousaphone Introduction, to review the importance of proper Sousaphone Maintenance. Follow up with students about the importance of proper Sousaphone maintenance. Maintenance guarantees a longer life and maintains the integrity of the Sousaphone. Keeping a clean instrument also keeps your body safe and healthy. Tell students it is important to always play the Sousaphone without any food, candy, or gum particles in your mouth. Food particles blown into the instrument cause serious internal damage.


  1. Introduce the Sousaphone maintenance tools: slide grease, valve oil, snake brush, mild dish soap (no bleach), a microfiber cloth and/or cheesecloth. Show students how to apply the snake brush through the mouthpiece receiver. Insert the mouthpiece brush into the mouthpiece to clean it thoroughly. Gently pull the slides halfway out and apply slide grease to lubricate the slides and avoid sticking. Apply a drop of valve oil to lubricate the valves to avoid the valves from sticking. Use a small drop of dish detergent mixed with warm water to clean the interior and exterior of the Sousaphone. Then dry the Sousaphone with a microfiber cloth or cheesecloth. 



  1. Assess students’ knowledge of the Sousaphone by having them assemble the slides and mouthpiece. Have students describe 2-3 parts of the instrument. Ask: What are the proper techniques for Sousaphone maintenance?



Used with permission. Portions of this work are based on the National Core Arts Standards Copyright © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards/All Rights Reserved – Rights Administered by SEADAE.

© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Louis Ford, Curriculum Developer and Music Artist Liaison
JoDee Scissors, Content Producer



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