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William Foster

Dr. William Patrick Foster, chairman of the Music Department and director of bands, emeritus at Florida A&M University, was born on August 25, 1925, in Kansas City-Wyandotte, Kansas. Known by his students and colleagues as "The Law" and "Dr. Maestro," Foster was the son of a railway mail clerk. At the age of twelve, Foster first learned to play the clarinet. At Sumner High School in Kansas City, Kansas, Foster showed talent in playing the clarinet and was appointed student director of the Sumner High School Orchestra. In 1936, at age seventeen, he was director of an all city Kansas City, Kansas, band.

Foster was one of three commencement speakers when he graduated from Sumner High School in 1937. He received a B. A. degree in music education from the University of Kansas in 1941 and a master's degree from Detroit's Wayne State University in 1950. Foster earned a Ed.D. in education with a major in music from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City in 1955. He taught at Lincoln University, Fort Valley State University and Tuskegee Institute, before coming to Florida A&M University (FAMU) in 1946.

Foster created the internationally famous 329 piece Marching "100" Band and developed over 200 half-time pageants; they have appeared in three films, three commercials, numerous magazine articles and thirty-four nationally televised network performances. The FAMU Marching Band was presented with the prestigious Sudler Intercollegiate Marching Band Trophy on October 26, 1984. In 1989, the French chose Foster as America's official representative in the Bastille Day Parade, celebrating the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. The band also appeared in the Fifteenth and the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary national telecasts from Walt Disney World in 1986 and 1996. Foster is credited with revolutionizing marching band techniques and reshaping the world's concept of marching bands.

A scholar, Foster has written eighteen articles for professional journals and has received numerous awards and citations for excellence. In 1998, he was elected to the National Band Association Hall of Fame. Often imitated, Dr. William Foster is considered the dean of America's band directors.

Foster passed away on August 28, 2010.

Accession Number

A2002.054

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/20/2002

Last Name

Foster

Maker Category
Middle Name

Patrick

Organizations
Schools

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Kealing Elementary School

Sumner Academy of Arts and Science

Horner Institute of Fine Arts

University of Kansas

Wayne State University

Teachers College, Columbia University

Charles L. Sumner High School

Banneker Elementary Science and Technology Magnet

Charles H. Sumner High School

Archival Photo 2
First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

FOS01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Kansas

Favorite Vacation Destination

West Coast of the United States, New York

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

8/25/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tallahassee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Prime Rib Steak, Chili

Death Date

8/28/2010

Short Description

Academic administrator and band director William Foster (1919 - 2010 ) was chairman of the Music Department and director of bands at Florida A&M University. Foster is founder of "Marching 100". Foster is credited with revolutionizing marching band techniques and reshaping the world's concept of marching bands. Under Foster's direction the FAMU band developed over 200 half-time pageants; and have appeared in three films, three commercials, numerous magazine articles and thirty-four nationally televised network performances.

Employment

Lincoln High School

Fort Valley State University

Tuskegee University

Florida A&M University

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Foster interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Foster's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Foster remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Foster names his family members

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - William Foster remembers his step-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - William Foster discusses growing up in poverty

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Foster describes his grandfather's influence

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - William Foster describes the Kansas City, Kansas of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Foster discusses his early interest in music

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Foster discusses his school life

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Foster remembers an influential high school band director

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Foster discusses his active high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Foster recalls his years attending the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Foster recalls his first teaching job after college

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Foster discusses his employment at three historically black colleges

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Foster discusses the inception of his music program at Florida A&M University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Foster recalls assembling Florida A&M University's band

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Foster discusses the success of Florida A&M University's marching band

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Foster discusses key factors in marching band performances

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Foster discusses his musical selection for marching band performances

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Foster discusses the Florida A&M University marching band's participation in the Orange Blossom Classic

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Foster recalls the Florida A&M University marching band's television exposure

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Foster discusses the Florida A&M University marching band's experience in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Foster recalls opportunities that arose for the Florida A&M University marching band

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Foster describes the Marching 100's role in preserving FAMU's autonomy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Foster describes the rehearsals of the Florida A&M University marching band, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - William Foster describes the rehearsals of the Florida A&M University marching band, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - William Foster discusses the a patriotic themed Florida A&M University performance

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - William Foster explains the planning involved in directing a marching band

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - William Foster recalls the Florida A&M University marching band's all-star team

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - William Foster discusses his early book "Band Pageantry"

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Photo - William Foster leads the Florida A&M College Band during commencement ceremonies, Tallahassee, Florida, 1946

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Photo - William Foster leads the Florida A&M University Marching 100 Band during the Orange Blossom Parade in Miami, Florida

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Photo - A baton twirler from Florida A&M University's early marching band, under the direction of William Foster

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - William Foster gives assistance to a sousaphone player, 1957

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Floria A&M University's Marching 100 Band led by drum major, Julian E. White

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - William Foster instructs band members on the art of sound projection

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Florida A&M University Marching Band in a pre-game Death March at Tampa Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Florida A&M University Marching Band at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, 1981

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Florida A&M University's Marching 100 under the direction of William Foster, 1968

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Florida A&M University Concert Band under the direction of William Foster, 1961

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Florida A&M University's Marching 100 Band performs under the direction of William Foster, Jacksonville, Florida

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Florida A&M University's Marching 100 Band under the direction of William Foster, 1970

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - William Foster and members of Florida A&M University's marching band in their new uniforms, 1968

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Florida A&M University's Marching 100 Band under the direction of William Foster, 1967

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Florida A&M University's Marching 100 Band percussion section under the direction of William Foster and Samuel Floyd, 1962

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Florida A&M University's Marching 100 Band goes sightseeing in Paris, France after performing for the French president on Bastille Day, 1989

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - William Foster, director of the Florida A&M University marching band, early 1950s

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - William Foster with Julian White and Charles Bing at a football game, 1981

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - William Foster directs the Florida A&M University marching band in the late 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 20 - Photo - William Foster and colleagues greet composer, Paul Yoder

Tape: 5 Story: 21 - Photo - William Foster and others receive achievement awards from Florida A&M University, 1959

Tape: 5 Story: 22 - Photo - William Foster and Julian White, Florida A&M University band directors

Tape: 5 Story: 23 - William Foster discusses his book, 'Band Pageantry: A guide for the marching band'

Tape: 5 Story: 24 - William Foster shares insights on creating a successful marching band

Tape: 5 Story: 25 - William Foster describes the impact of the Florida A&M University marching band's efforts

Tape: 5 Story: 26 - William Foster reflects on his career

Tape: 5 Story: 27 - William Foster considers his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 28 - William Foster considers the power of music

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$6

DATitle
William Foster discusses his musical selection for marching band performances
William Foster describes the rehearsals of the Florida A&M University marching band, part 1
Transcript
Let me ask you a little bit about your selection of music. How did you about selecting your music, and?$$Now, the selection of the music is always based upon the familiarity of the tunes. In other words, you think about the top ten tunes, the music that's high on the charts of the, of the television shows, on the movies or the radio, whatever, whatever means there is of evaluating a tune, if they're somewhere in the upper partial of that , of identity. And that way, the listener can establish empathy of what tunes are being played. Now, if they select tunes that are not in that spirit, this whole show is lost. Nothing is, nothing is of interest. And so it's very important that there be familiarity of the, of the music itself and the tunes, and that they have enough variety in enough selection of tunes that there'll be some selectivity on our part of the audience will feel, that they'll have interest in.$$Now, you--but this is in stark contrast, though, to the white marching band because they really did more standards. They would not necessarily always do popular tunes, right?$$Yes, it's--they, their shows are, that's, that's why nobody looks at them (laughter). And, but they don't understand it. They don't understand what it's all about. And it's very simple also, 'cause if you think in terms of a, of a television show, if you notice, they have a thematic beginning, and they have a development, it's just like a story, you know, climax, ending and so forth and so on.$How often you would have to, you know, the [Florida A&M, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tallahassee, Florida] band would have to rehearse and what occurred during those rehearsals?$$There were two formats for rehearsals, one with the marching band and the other is with the symphonic band. The marching band where you have to do rehearsals of the drill as well as the music itself. Those were separate entities, although they're combined to make one composite unity event. Well, three, drill of a band, all of the basic fundamentals are stressed in each rehearsal, and the designated schedule of, of techniques, and they're passed out at the beginning of the rehearsal on Monday as to what needs to be done to do with the crew if the show is on the coming Saturday or a week from Saturday. And all of this detailed, and it's, actually, it programmed by numbers of minutes for achievement of any particular facet of the show. So this is highly organized and it is, the expectancy is highly, I would say it's very great. Again, the same component with the marching band. We have two sections of the marching band or aspect and one is the outside rehearsals which we rehearse the band, the full band together. And then we have inside rehearsals. The inside rehearsals are actually far superior, so far as getting results are concerned because you can hear all the partials of tone coming in from all the instruments. And you have the unadvised attention on the inside rehearsal hall, where that's not true of the band drill field, although we have bleachers and we're organized and set up pretty composite together. With the symphonic band, the rehearsals are quite detailed so far as the schedule of numbers to be rehearsed and what areas of the numbers of the sections are to be rehearsed and what the problems are. It is hoped that at the end of each segment that some progress is made in regards to, I would say, refinement and a, a containment of any errors that have--may have come about during the course of the rehearsal. It's in the rehearsals of music as well as marching that we are able to discern about where we are in the show in preparation for performance. So it is hoped that we will program our rehearsals in such a way that we can reach the desired goal by the end of the week. I think the final rehearsal that we have before going on the field comes, what we call, is a warm-up, and that's on the Saturday before the game. And we go through each number of the show that we're doing pre-game and halftime. And it is a, a final review of any problems that may come about. But usually it's sort of like cold duck so to speak. So that is just about it so far as the rehearsals of the band, but everything is refined and down to a, a specific evaluation in terms of the music and in terms of marching.