EXCERPTS FROM “THE MAN BEHIND THE BATON” BY DR. WILLIAM P. FOSTER: Excerpt One – The FAMU Sound

jerry-bilik“During that time, (1940s and 1950s) the music arranger for the University of Michigan School of Music was Jerry Bilik. I wanted to know more about what he was doing. To this end, I invited him to come to FAMC and conduct a workshop on marching band arranging for my staff and me. He accepted my invitation. I cannot begin to explain to you how happy I was that such an outstanding arranger was coming to Florida A&M College to help us to understand what he was doing. I could hardly wait for him to arrive. Mr. Bilik was very helpful to our program. During his workshop, I began to notice that in his arrangements were an innovative bass line and a counter melody that complimented the melody by playing an independent line. The way the bass line, melody and counter melody worked together was most innovative. The most important part was the melody line of the trumpets, cornets, and clarinets. 

With the techniques of Mr. Jerry Bilik, I found that I could strengthen any line so that it could be clearly heard. It became clear to me that Mr. Bilik was an expert in applied music theory…. Once I understood what he was doing, I was ready to follow him to new dimensions in music development and appreciation. In fact, I was prepared to jump even higher than he had. I decided then and there that the FAMC Band program was ready to go where no band had gone before.

Perhaps Mr. Jerry Bilik did not realize at the time the support he had given to our program. He was gracious. Not only did he teach us what we needed at the time, but he did not charge us for his services. We only paid for his travel, room and board. Mr. Bilik told me that it was an honor for him to be asked to come to Florida A&M College. We will always be indebted to Mr. Jerry Bilik and the Director of Bands at University of Michigan, Dr. William D. Revelli.” – Chapter: “The FAMU Sound” from “The Man Behind The Baton” By Dr. Willam P. Foster

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Jerry Bilik composed more than 50 pieces of music, which run the gamut from popular ballads to marches to his ‘Symphony for Band,’ (copyright 1972). His concert march “Block M” has been voted by band composers as one of the top 100 marches of all time. He wrote the “M Fanfare” which is usually played by the University of Michigan marching band prior to their playing the famous fight song “The Victors.” He has worked with many popular artists, including Danny Kaye, Dick Van Dyke, Leonard Bernstein, Barbra Streisand, and Neil Diamond.

He has arranged music for several television series, including Starsky and Hutch and Charlie’s Angels. He serves as Vice President of creative development for Disney on Ice, which he also writes and directs. Bilik received both a B.M. and M.M. of music from The University of Michigan.

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