“Can you imagine a band director who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas having never before visited the southeast United States, relocating to Tallahassee, Florida to become a teacher and administrator?” Can you imagine the differences in culture, social etiquette, graces, and such, that could exist between a colored teacher reared and educated in Kansas and colored students generally from the Panhandle of Florida in the 1940s and 50s? When I was just beginning to teach, to search for a successful career path, I was determined to develop an effective and successful band program at Florida A&M College in spite of the differences.
During the early years of my career, this country was legally segregated, especially in the “deep south.” How was I going to get my music program off the ground? How was I going to teach my students all that I felt they needed to succeed? I was familiar with the legal expression, “Separate but equal education” and with the lifestyles inherent in the fabric of the United States of America. In the early years, “White was right” if you wanted to live. By that, I mean that if you were Black, Negro, or colored, you had to learn what was acceptable to Black and to White people in order for you to be successful…
As I continued my work at FAMC, I realized that much of my success would depend on how my students responded to me. I would have to find a way to teach them and provide incentives that would result in a successful band program. My students came from small farms, plantations, small country towns and inner city cultures. They were all from the “deep south.” Besides the need to find instruments, music books, and minimal dollars of financial support for students, I was faced with other concerns: What was I going to do about personal behavior? Social attitudes? Other such things? After a year or so at FAMC, along with all the other preparations for a successful band program, I decided to create the “band motto.”
I created the motto because I needed something to help me guide band students to a higher place, a level of excellence for which they were all striving. It gave them something by which they could live daily. Band students and I were involved on a daily basis. I was interested in more than how well they played their instruments. I wanted to teach them about character, dress, self discipline, personal etiquette and such things. The students needed daily reminders. They needed to be fine-tuned. In many cases their values needed some realignment.
The band motto was introduced to students during freshman orientation. From the very beginning of their introduction to the band program, the band motto became a part of their development. The motto was in all of our band publications. It was in the weekly schedules on band trip itineraries and in the band handbook, which was also developed before 1950. My desire and plan were to have the motto perpetually before band members, I wanted it to become a part of their very being, their souls.”
The following is the band motto developed for the Florida A&M College Band:
- Highest Quality of Character, which encompasses the components of personal bearing, attire and language.
- Achievement in Academics, which is the purpose of students coming to the University in preparation for a career and life’s work.
- Perfection of Musicianship, which references tonal beauty, intonation, technique, articulation, dynamic contrast, and phrasing.
- Precision in Marching, which refers to point and drive, stationary position, 30-45-60 and 90 degree knee lift, and instrument arc.
- Dedication to Service, which is the basic function of the band to the University, the community, and its national and international public.
Excerpt of Chapter: “The FAMU Band Motto” 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.