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Archive for Friday, April 18, 2008

Tonganoxie band leader treasures Sousa connection

April 18, 2008

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Charles Van Middlesworth III, Tonganoxie High School band director, shown conducting, is taking part in Leavenworth's John Philip Sousa Star Spangled Spectacular.

Charles Van Middlesworth III, Tonganoxie High School band director, shown conducting, is taking part in Leavenworth's John Philip Sousa Star Spangled Spectacular.

Star spangled show

Schedule for the two-day John Philip Sousa Star Spangled Spectacular:

¢ 6:30 p.m. today: "The Times of John Philip Sousa" dinner, during which performers will portray characters who would have been alive during Sousa's time.

¢ 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday: Concert at Leavenworth-Lansing Park, featuring area marching bands. Visitors then are invited to eat lunch at C.W. Parker Carousel Courtyard.

¢ 4 p.m. Saturday: Sousa concert at Warren Middle School, Leavenworth. The band, dressed in period clothing, will play Sousa marches.

Ticket information: $10 for adults; $5 for students. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the Heritage Center at (913) 682-2122.

Leavenworth's upcoming John Philip Sousa Star Spangled Spectacular is hitting close to home for a Tonganoxie resident.

Charles Van Middlesworth III, Tonganoxie High School band director, will play tenor saxophone in Saturday's Sousa concert. So he thought it was time he took a closer look at his family's connection to John Philip Sousa's wife, Jane Van Middlesworth Bellis.

"Van Middlesworth is such an unusual name. There are not very many so I know that every single person who has that last name is related," he said.

Van Middlesworth's research began when he was asked by Kansas University music professor Robert Foster to perform in a concert of Sousa's most famous marches. The two-day event, honoring the band leader and composer known as the "March King," is being organized by the Heritage Center, 109 Delaware St., Leavenworth.

Van Middlesworth - known in Tonganoxie as "Mr. Van" - hasn't been able to trace the exact connection to Jane Van Middlesworth Bellis, but he has discovered she was born in February 1862 or 1863 to Henry Bellis and Louise Hyle Cornish.

She acquired the name "Van Middlesworth" when her father named his daughter after his mother, Jane Van Middlesworth, which technically makes "Van Middlesworth" her middle name. Jane lived in Philadelphia until she married John Philip Sousa on Dec. 30, 1879.

"He's one of the greatest march writers of his time and he did so much stuff," Van Middlesworth said. "It's kind of neat to be able to at least say there was a Van Middlesworth who married him."

Nicole Kelley, Bonner Springs Chieftain reporter, can be reached at (913) 422-4048.

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