WEEKLY EXCERPTS FROM: “THE MAN BEHIND THE BATON” – DR. WILLIAM P. FOSTER

87b2e3e408e8fc34efe11c19f855a2d3“By 1950 the marching band consisted of 110 members and became widely known as the “Marching 100” Band. It was about that time, also, that a “new sound” emerged that was said to describe the eighteen-piece percussion section, made up of four Scotch bass drums, four tenor drums, eight snare drums, and two pairs of cymbals. During the early years, because of a very low budget, the dress attire for the FAMC marching band consisted of their personal dark blue or black suits, trousers and coats; white shirts, black string ties; and black shoes – all furnished by the band members. The College purchased white web-cross belts, white spats, and black band caps. For several years after I arrived, the FAMC band donned blue/orange uniforms formerly used by the University of Florida marching band. Orange and green were and still are the school colors at FAMU… Another tremendous challenge I faced was the recruitment, evaluation, and training of initial faculty members. From 1946 to 1953 selections were made among selected band faculty and staff members from outstanding schools of music of such institutions as the University of Michigan, Ohio state University, the Juilliard School of Music, and Eastman School of Music.

Prior to and after recruitment, I evaluated faculty and staff as highly competent instructors and performers on their major instruments. Still, in some cases, I regretted to find that, despite outstanding musical qualifications, some employees did not measure up to my standards. In my estimation, or in terms of my standards, they lacked some of the values I felt our band members deserved and needed. Some of the faculty and staff members could not relate to band students. They lacked the compassion and empathy needed in order for them to work effectively with our less musically endowed students. Also, they did not possess the necessary patience and genuine interest in students that was mandatory. Evident too was that they lacked the commitment, compassion, and dedication in their instruction and work…

In recognizing our instructional dilemma, I decided that the situation required my developing and “growing” potential future faculty members who possessed the competence, performance ability, commitment, dedication, compassion, interest, empathy, and desire needed.

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Circa 197o’s Pictured: Dr. William P. Foster, Mr. Julian E. White, Prof. Charles S. Bing

This was one of the best decisions I could have made during the formative years of the Florida A&M University Marching Band. In my day folks called it “growing your own crop” to ensure that you got precisely what you needed, and in the right proportions.  Thus in terms of faculty members, my recruitment, evaluation, and training took on new purpose: The recruitment of what today, FAMU terms “the brightest and the best.” Also, the new method of recruiting staff would ensure that the brightest and the best brought more to the program than mere credentials and personal agendas. They had to exemplify wholesome values, a willingness to be constantly evaluated, and an acceptance and practice of exemplary training procedures. My “growing your own crop” methods involved recruiting, evaluating, and training our own alumni, gleaned from our own fertile fields, or as today’s students say, “the patch”… The first music department and FAMU Band alumni selected to join the FAMU Music Department and band faculty was Leonard C. Bowie (Fall 1959). In succession, several graduates from the FAMU Music Department and Instrumental Music Program were employed: Charles S Bing (1960), Samuel A. Floyd and Ruffie Londen (1962), John H. Daniels, Jr. and Shaylor James (1965), Julian E. White (1973), Lindsey B Sarjeant (1974), Wallace A. Clark (1997), and Shelby Chipman (1998).”

Excerpt of Chapter: “Growing My Own Crop” from “The Man Behind The Baton” By Dr. William P. Foster

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Dr. William P Foster is founder and creator of the world renowned Florida A&M University Marching 100. He has been credited for the creation of the very first band dance routine, many marching techniques, drill patterns, and band pageants (Themed shows). All of these, and many more of his creations, are still utilized by college bands across the country today.

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