The Fourth of July is an exciting time for James Souza, who is the CEO and president of Pyro Spectaculars by Souza, a family owned company. He has taken his craft of fireworks to a new and rapturous level. This week alone, during the Independence Day celebrations, some 18 million people will attend 127 events that his company has produced in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.
“The Souza name is recognized globally for high quality,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnic Association, the industry’s trade group.
“Jim is one of the best of the best. And in a business with incredibly big egos, he’s very humble.”
Within the U.S., Pyro Spectacular is a relatively small firm with only 50 full-time employees but on the west coast, “it is the biggest player, a stand-out for its century-plus history, its massive audience size, and its record of technical and artistic innovation.”
“In designing a fireworks show, the sky is my canvas,” he said. “In Laguna, we paint the ocean and the canyons. It is a natural shift. You look at composition and colors. I’m just trying to be an artist.”
Souza had caught the fireworks bug early. By age 12, he was accompanying his father, Robert Souza, to shows, lighting fuses with a torch at county fairs.
“After the grand finale, we would climb on stage and wave flares at the crowd,” he recalls. “They would cheer. It was thrilling.”
Souza majored in business at the University of Portland and went to work for Bechtel Corporation, the engineering giant. He lasted a year.
“My dad was planning shows for the 1976 Bicentennial,” he recalled. “I thought we could kick it up a notch.”
“They came up with the ‘pyro-musical, a 30-minute narrated show telling the story of America’s fight for freedom, of George Washington, the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell, of Abraham Lincoln and the civil war, through landing a man on the moon.”
“The package was a hit and, in a year, the firm doubled its business. The concept has endured, too; it’ll be featured this year at the Rose Bowl in January 2018.”
“Pyro Spectaculars has mounted shows in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia and Israel.”
“We are busy nonstop all over the world,” Souza said.
We are thrilled and happy for our 1974 Alumnus James Souza, and his successful takeover of the celebration of lights all over the world! Go Pilots!