Sousa's father played the trombone in the U.S. Marine Band. He knew his son was a "law-abiding boy" and that he would never desert. When he found out about his son's plans to join the circus, he made special arrangements with the Marine Corps commandant. On that morning of June 9, 1868, they met with General Zeilin, and 13-year-old Sousa agreed to enlist as an apprentice musician for the Marine Band. His father hoped that by the time his service was over, his son would no longer be so interested in joining the circus.
And he was right. Sousa never did become a circus band leader, but he did become the most famous leader of the Marine Band.