“As I worked with band members and my faculty and staff, I valued relevance as a key element to acceptable performances. Some of my former students have said that I sought to produce shows based on actual human personalities and events, not on military music written 100 years earlier. I accept that assessment; my imagination seemed to have been working at full speed on a daily basis. This was apparent in the introduction of dance steps intertwined with what has been called “the best of contemporary music: jazz, rock whatever got people off their seats.” We became known for unusual formations, humorous depictions, etc. It has been said that many of my “wildest routines”, the ones that were said to jerk entire stadiums to their feet, to halt football games and turn parades into street parties, generally came to me in the quiet moments of dawn. It’s true. I must admit that sometimes in the quiet moments of dawn, I do see formations, steps, etc., with clarity: band members stepping, strutting, twisting, snaking – horns high, trombones low; drum major leaping, turning, landing in a split.
It has been said that our band is always full of surprise audience-pleasing techniques – that when it advances toward and/or steps on the field in synchronized fashion, it slides, glides, slithers, swivels, rotates, shakes, rocks, and rolls. It leaps to the sky, does triple twists, and drops to the earth without flaw, without missing either a beat or a step. In addition, it is said that with all units moving in rapid but precise formation, fans are hard pressed to keep with the extraordinary panoramic or kaleidoscopic view of the now 300 plus band members, all doing their collective but individual thing! Is that a musical paradox, or what?… In summation, our band pageants have great current and legendary appeal because they fascinate the eyes and ears of the spectators. In other words our band pageants relate to the audience. It may surprise you to know that because of the recognition of the FAMU band in the mid-fifties my doctoral dissertation, written in 1955 was accepted with no references. It was most unusual that professors would permit anything like that, but they did. The band’s reputation allowed the committee to view my dissertation as original and authoritative. Thirteen years later it was published under the title Band Pageantry, and it has been the bible for marching band directors for thirty, or more years. One unusual thing about that book is that it is just as fresh and pertinent today as it was in 1968 when it was published because it deals with fundamentals.”
Excerpt of Chapter: “Growing My Own Crop” from “The Man Behind The Baton” By Dr. William P. Foster
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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