William Patrick Foster, the founder of Florida A&M University’s Marching “100,”one of the nation’s top collegiate bands, died Saturday in Tallahassee. He was 91.
Foster’s was born in 1919 in Kansas City, Kan. His interest in music first grew in high school when he bought his first instrument, a b flat clarinet. His high school did not have a band program, so he enrolled in private lessons in order to become proficient, at which point he switched to a saxophone.
Foster arrived at Florida A&M College in 1946 with one goal: to have a 100-piece band. With this in mind, he coined the name the Marching “100” Band. Immediately enrollment increased with the new band program as the chief recruiter.
Today the Marching “100” Band is renowned for more than 30 innovative techniques which have become standard operating procedures for many high school and collegiate marching band programs throughout the nation.
Under his leadership, the band has been featured in three films, three commercials, and featured spots on 60 minutes, 20/20 and PM Magazine, along with 34 nationally televised performances. His textbook “Band Pageantry” is considered by many to be the definitive guide for marching band technique and performance.
“Dr. Foster… is viewed with great respect among hundreds of past and present members,” said Julian E. White, current band director and successor to Foster. “We are deeply saddened by his death, but appreciative that we had him so long to share with us his great love for music and the profession.”
Thanks to Foster, the Marching “100” Band also performed in the 1989 Bastille Day Parade in Paris, France. The Marching “100” is also the only collegiate marching band to have performed for the Queen of England.
Foster was later inducted into several halls of fame, including the Florida Artist Hall of Fame, the National Association for Distinguished Band Conductors, the Florida Music Educators Association and the Afro-American Hall of Fame.
Following Foster’s death, alumni and current students expressed sadness at the loss of the originator of “America’s Band.”
“Dr. Foster, you were loved, revered, and held in very high esteem to not only your family and people who served under you, but your colleagues and other music professionals around the world,” said Victor R. Gaines, president of The Marching “100” Alumni Association.
“Dr. Foster was a legend during his reign and will always be remembered as a key figure in the life and history of FAMU, helping to build our brand not only in America, but internationally,” said President James Ammons in an official statement. “He left an indelible mark on this university. His work will live on at FAMU and in bands across this nation and the world.”
Foster served as band director from 1946 until his retirement in 1998; he was succeeded by Julian E. White.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. in Lee Hall on the campus of Florida A&M. A public viewing will be held Friday Sept. 3 from noon to 6 p.m.
“We pledge to continue this outstanding legacy that he created and offer our condolences to the Foster family,” said White.