TALLAHASSEE — William P. Foster, credited with innovating a much-imitated high-stepping style as founder and longtime director of the Florida A&M Marching 100 band, died in Tallahassee on Saturday. He was 91.
Foster served as the marching band’s director from 1946 until his retirement in 1998. He created more than 200 half-time pageants for the band at the historically black university. He is credited with innovating marching band techniques, including a high stepping style imitated by high school and college bands nationwide.
A 1991 article in USA Today called the Marching 100 “probably the best known college marching band in the USA,” and a 1989 New York Times piece called them “perhaps the most imitated of marching bands.”
“There’s a psychology to running a band,” Foster told The New York Times in 1989. “People want to hear the songs they hear on the radio; it gives them an immediate relationship with you. And then there’s the energy. Lots of energy in playing and marching. Dazzle them with it. Energy.”
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“As a visionary leader, (Foster) built America’s greatest band by departing from the standard routines and maneuvers to showcase band pageantry,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons.
Foster graduated from the University of Kansas in 1941, earned his masters degree from Wayne State University in 1950 and received his doctorate from Teachers College at Columbia University in 1955.
He wrote two books, “Band Pageantry: A Guide for the Marching Band” and “The Man Behind the Baton.”