Dr. William P. Foster, Former FAMU Director, Dies at 91

Photo by Victor R. Gaines

The marching band community mourns the loss of Dr. William P. Foster, director emeritus of Florida A&M University (FAMU). Foster’s numerous achievements influenced bands at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) as well as high school and college bands worldwide.

Foster took the reins of the FAMU Band in 1946 with only 16 members. The band became known as The Marching 100 in 1950 when membership increased to 110 members. The group has grown to march more than 400 musicians.

Foster introduced the playing of R&B/ Top 40 songs while infusing intricate choreography during halftime shows. This combination of musicality and showmanship has become the standard for HBCU bands. Foster also authored “Band Pageantry: A Guide for the Marching Band.”

Under Foster’s leadership, FAMU won the Sudler Trophy in 1985. And in 1989, the band was chosen by France to represent America during the bicentennial of the French Revolution. The Marching 100 has also performed in presidential inauguration parades and Super Bowl halftime shows. Foster received numerous additional awards and retired in 1998 after 52 years at the helm.

Foster, 91, died on Aug. 28.

About the author

Christy Walker

Christy A. Walker is the co-creator and webmaster of The 5th Quarter (www.the5thquarter.com), an online community for HBCU bands, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary at the 2009 Honda Battle of the Bands. She also hosts a podcast on HBCU bands (The 5th Quarter Podcast) that can be found on iTunes. She played clarinet in the North Carolina A&T Blue and Gold Marching Machine and lives in North Carolina.