Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Maestro

Dr. William P. Foster the living legend who orchestrated the creation of the Florida A & M Marching “100” (arguably the world's most famous marching band). Today celebrates Dr. Foster’s 91st birthday. Dr. Foster was born Aug. 25, 1919 in Kansas City, KS. It was in 1946 that “the Maestro” arrived at what was then Florida A & M College for Negroes and devised new techniques that would be the mainstay for marching bands forever. However, this is the world’s viewpoint of “Doc” (as his students affectionately call him).

To me he was much more!

I first met “Doc” in the fall of 1984 as a 17 year old "green" teenager with hopes of wearing that “100” emblem one day! My first impression was... this man clearly is of royalty and what a blessing it is to have him as “my” band director. He spoke in a diction that I’ve never heard a man speak before (Yes Doc was known for spouting words no one but perhaps Dr. White knew). But, it showed me the effectiveness of building one’s vocabulary and how men (of all walks & color) respected you when you mastered the King’s English. Doc Foster was almost God-like to a freshman entering those hallowed halls of the Foster/Tanner music building.

You know, I can still remember the first time “Doc” called on me by name! “What, Doc knew my name” was the only thing I could come up with. Foster knew the names of ever student that came through the “100”and he could tell you much about who you were as a musician and a person. He cared for his students much like a proud father would. Those of my fellow bandsmen who knew Doc will share my sentiments when I say…I loved him like a father!

The world knows him as a Hall of Fame Band Director and Artist! You may have heard of him once or twice mentioned at a Society Gala or as a Key note Speaker. Some bandsmen may know him as “that other band’s Director" who walked like a gallant gentleman. He is known for creating band pageantry. His band represented the US in the Bastille Day parade in Paris.

I will simply know him as….”The Law”

Ten things that remind me of “Doc” and those old band days

  1. Doc’s practices where we “Take the 1st measure”...... for a full hour!
  2. The way Doc spoke…what swagger!
  3. His tilted walk or glide
  4. His powerful handshake!
  5. The way everyone said “HUBBA DOC” to his every word
  6. Looking at the way his face lit up when he directed the concert selection on Game Day
  7. That perfect white conductor’s Uniform & Hat
  8. The honor of carrying Docs suitcase and items to his room during check-in
  9. Hearing him as a Keynote speaker at the Rotary Club and hearing a pin fall!
  10. Knowing that one day I’ll be able to look my kids in the eye and tell them….”That’s my “Doc”!


**** I want to hear your favorite memory of "Doc Foster"!!!!!

Milano Flascucci~


  1. They are countless, but on the Thursday night prior Homecoming Fall 1987...Dr. Foster said "Dr. White, drum majors, section leaders...the show is not right...When I come back, I want to just run through this thing one time." Needless to say, when Dr. Foster returned, we ran the show one time and its was on point when Dr. Foster returned.

    Dr. Foster commanded such respect and admiration that one could not help but want to please him and measure up to the level of PERFECTION that he required. We all LOVE you Doc. Please keep Dr. Foster in your is my undertanding that he is current at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare in ICU. Moon Head SOT 87

  2. Mike Mitch...OK, one of my fondest memories of DOC was, seeing the Welch's Grape soda commercial when I was growing up. That single commercial of the Florida A&M Marching "100" sold me on not only going to FAMU but joining the band. DOC was conducting, ...the Band was playing hard, the lines were nothing less than Perfect and the old school Uni's were the best. My grandmother would call me in from whatever I was doing because she knew I loved that Band and that commercial. I would love to have a copy of that commercial, so if anyone has it, please inbox me...HUBBA "DOC"!!!

    Yogi Bear/Sounds of Thunder/Fall '83/The Bangems

  3. A Bird's Eye View: Although I never marched with the "100" or played in the band, as a student I always admired the Stoic Stature and Regal Nature that he exude with each waive of the wand. How excellent the sound of each note expressed in appreciation of his direction. It was sheer perfection in harmony. A well choreographed dance, it was. His wand became one with the band, as a 'Snake Charmer' to its venomous prey!

    ~Jeri [Freshman '87]

  4. Thank you for your proud memories!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. RemoveLonnie B. James I look at my 100 Fam and see a majority changed their Profile Pic to HONOR the PATRIARCH of our Family DR. WILLIAM P. FOSTER. I am overwhelmed, this is why we LOVE THIS ORGANIZATION. This man has FOREVER joined a MULTITUDE of some of the GREATEST MUSICAL Talent in this country and MADE us FAMILY FOR LIFE. People who I ...may have never met, but if they're in that number NOTHING ELSE NEED BE SAID. BOOTSY, FALL 89 HUBBA

  7. In the summer of 1984, two weeks after my father died in an accident, I arrived at Florida A&M University with one thought . . "make the 100". Nothing else mattered. When I first saw Dr. Foster, his resemblance to my father struck me like a 2x4 across the bridge of my nose. Over the following weeks, and indeed the following years, I came to know, respect, appreciate, and admire this man in his own rite. The example of service impressed upon me by him has not faded, and continues to inspire, through my experiences in the Army, career, civic work, etc. I am selfish in my identification with the organization he developed to world renown. I am not alone in the peculiar pride of it. It is shared, not only by it's members, but by students and faculty of FAMU, people of Florida, at least two United States Presidents I know of, and many around the world. Thank you, Doctor William Patrick Foster, for the life you dedicated to us, at one school for descendants of Africans who suffered slavery here. Your work guided me and thousands of others away from being lost, bitter, disillusioned, and wholly resentful. The United States owes you a tremendous debt of gratitude.

    "Music is a way through for humanity. It is victory over death." ~ Cobbin McGee

  8. I remember seeing this man every year when my Mother would take to to the Bold City Classic in Jacksonville Fl. and the Florida Classic in Tampa Fl. I would be in awe watching THE MAESTRO in action as the RING MASTER to the GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. As a High School Band student I would be totally blown away watching the precision and listening to the sound the resignated from the MARCHING"100" of course all H.S. bands in my area tried their best to emmulate the intensity of the "100" as best they could. But being in the FOSTER TANNER BDLG. under ther Baton and Direction of The MAESTRO as a (perspective) member for the 1st time,words fail me Totaly rendered speechless. SEPTEMER 3RD 1989 was the day it happened to me. Hubba Doc!!!

  9. I can post story after story about how Dr. Foster has influenced my life and how he contributed to who I am as a person today. So I decided to post how it all originated for me from Pensacola. My cousin, Gary Taite (who's like a brother to... me) would lose our mind everytime we saw the Welch's Grape Soda commercial come on tv. We would stop whatever it is that we were doing, run to the tv and march up and down the living room floor emulating the "100" routine until our grandmother yelled at us for making too much noise. Then and there, we said one day we're gonna be in that band. Gary came up in Fall 81 and when I graduated from high school, I had a music scholarship to attend LSU so I was headed there but Gary reminded me of that childhood promise. So I came up in Fall 86 and in Fall 88, our grandmother came to see us march at homecoming. For the Rattler pre-game entrance, Taite would bring on the Trumpet rank and I would bring on the Saxophone rank. He would always count it off at the sideline, then we brought our ranks on the field at the same time. Later that evening after the homecoming game, our grandmother said "I remember when yall would make all that bumpity bumpity noise in the living room when that FAMU commercial came on!" We looked at each other and all we could do was laugh because we just realized that we fulfilled that dream and we recalled how silly we must've look trying to march in the living room!

    Ellis Gainey~

  10. Dr. Foster had such a HUGE impact on my family long before my birth.
    My father was also a member of the 100 on Snare in the '50's. I used to hear so many stories of "The Law", long before I knew I would be a member of the 100. The respect ...level was through the roof, and how Doc took care of the members, he was to many, a father figure for those who didn't have one. You see, my father never had the privileged of knowing his own father, and was raised by my Grandmother. My father was so impacted by this man, that he named his first born son (my brother) after him... William Patrick (affectionately known to the family as "Rikki").
    Through the years, I would attend the Florida Classic with the family, and naturally, we would sit near the band. Being a musician myself, I was floored by the level of musicianship the 100 had. Watching Dr. Foster conduct the band, was like watching an angel to me. He was so smooth, and commanded such respect without ever raising his voice! Watching those numerous performances, I knew I HAD TO BE IN THAT NUMBER!
    Fast forward to 1989 when I was a freshman, the very first time I saw him enter the room, I was speechless. His presence demanded respect and you would somehow straighten your back, sit up to the edge of your seat, instrument in perfect position, awaiting his instruction. I thought to myself, this man is so incredibly REGAL! It was like watching a King approach his throne (the podium). I also noticed, that ALL side chatter in the band room immediately stopped! SILENCE! Then, he spoke, and it was so surreal. I remembered in that moment, the many stories my father told of how he counseled him, encouraging him to stay on the straight and narrow, make good grades, and BE A MAN!!
    The way Doc would break down 'In Storm and Sunshine', note by note, measure by measure, it was evident how he was able to get the results he did from the band. Memorization was inevitable, because he made each note important. Once we completed a piece, it was ingrained in your very being!
    Dr. Foster also counseled me during my time on the hill. The countless lessons of how one should transfer all of what was learned in the band room and on the Patch stays with me to this day. Discipline, excellence, tenacity, and perseverance are the corner stones of my life, thanks to him. The many years of advice, and words of encouragement meant the world to me. He always encouraged me to do my best, not only in the band, but in life. Being a member of the Beta Phi Chapter of Tau Beta Sigma afforded me an opportunity to assist him in his office, and watch his business, and work ethic. He was a father figure to all of us.
    Once I had a family of my own, he still gave the best advice, and treated my son like a grandson. I could obviously go on and on recounting the many memories I shared with Dr. Foster, but I will end by saying this: I would not be where I am today without being one of his "100 Children". He is, and always will be implanted in my heart, and I love him dearly. He is the best to have ever done it! HUBBA DOC!

    Kimberly Holloway~


    Toni Black~

  12. The MAESTRO indeed. When Doc stepped foot on that podium MAGIC happened. I don't know what it was, but the music just went to a whole new level of muscianship. He would say, "DE-DEEEEE" and the rest was history.

    Jerry Andrews~

  13. We definitely will be praying for "The Law" that God will turn that thing around. Moreover, I will pray God's will be done. I didn't know much about FAMU Marching 100 being from Maryland, except for the Disney World Anniversary when I first... saw an all black band do "the Reebok" on national television!!! I fell in love! Next I saw a band camp application in The Instrumentalist my senior year(91) and applied. This is where I first saw and heard Dr. Foster. I was more than amazed!!! I had NEVER witnessed first hand, an African American male with such poise and diction, such intelligence and presence. He captured EVERYONE'S attention with such ease and EVERYONE respected him, sometimes more than the university's president. I have to agree with Klarque on the first measure for hours lol.. Thanks for posting this. We love you Dr. Foster and we definitely are praying the will of God be carried out in your life, be it healing or be it going home to have sweet rest with Him! You have done a great work and your legacy will DEFINITELY live on!!

    Teran Robert Goldsborough

  14. The Word says By His Stripes we are healed. My Prayers are with the Man who taught us all how to be not just a great musician and performer. He taught us how to be GREAT Citizens for humanity.
    How many of us who didn't have present fathers ...or role models in our lives turned out to be the leaders of today because of our relationship with Dr. Foster?

    I will stop there. No I won't. You see the 100 was my first fraternity. My first Family away from home. The bonds I have with my 100 brothers and sisters is just as tight if not tighter than my blood family. How many people gave up on us, but through the 100, we learn that we could endure and perfect something that others could not.

    Damnit making the 100 wasn't easy back then, expectations were high if you dared to put on the Orange and Green. Dr. Foster taught us that whether you were the principal, first, second or third on your horn, believe and don't quit. The quote I repeat every-year in my educational career, I learned from Dr. Foster. "Never make a decision when you are tired, upset or angry, because it will be one you will live to regret."

    Never quit, Never quit.....Hubba 100, Hubba Dr. Foster.

    Kenneth Williams

  15. Donna Washington..... I'm not a band member but a native of Tallahassee and grew up listening to the Marching 100 all of my life. I grew up on Ridge Rd. and could hear the band practice and their halftime performances all the way from Bragg Stadium and that's pretty far. That should tell you how loud and great they were.
    To my understanding, Dr. Foster was a great conductor and composer who mastered his craft. He and the "100" was, is and will always be internationally known for their gift and talent of giving music in such a style like no other college band. I'm not just talking about the dancing. It goes deeper than that. I'm talking about the skill of musicianship, the technique of their marching style, the dedication and hard work which brought them fame and invitations to Paris, two presidents inaugurations, the superbowl, performances with Prince and Kanye West and the list goes on and on. In additon, he has taught, mentored, molded, and shaped so many students over several decades. I've heard several band members say they would not be the person that they are today had it not been for Dr. Foster. He has produced band directors among many high schools within the state of Florida. That speaks volumes of his expertise. I'm looking for and anticipating Will Packer, John Singleton or Tyler Perry to do a documentary or a movie about his life story, "From the Highest of 7 Hills." Can somebody make this happen?
    My prayers will be with his family, friends and all band members (current and former). Much luv in Christ.
    #1 Rattler,
    Donna Washington

  16. I attended the memorial service and the homegoing service for Dr. Foster. All I can say is WOW! Thank u Famu for doing such an AWESOME job. If u were not there words can not describe what took place. Just AWESOME! I have a new found respect for Dr. Foster, Famu and the "100."
    What was very touching to me was a performance by the "100" at the homegoing service. To my understanding this selection is called Elsa, and it was Dr. Foster's favorite piece and its very difficult to play. I was sitting in the balcony next to the band when they played this selection and they almost blew me out of the balcony. LOL! I looked around and saw so many alumni band members crying (old/young ...and male/female). I had never heard the "100" play a concert selection but now I understand why they are considered the best band in the nation. This was so beautiful and I don't even like concert/orchestra/symphony selections. It was AWESOME!!!
    I'm still looking for Will Packer to do a movie/documentary about Dr. Foster, Famu and the "100."
    To Famu and the "100" plz remember to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ so I encourage u with those words.

    Much luv in Christ

    Donna Washington
    Tallahassee Native
    Famu Alumni c/o '94