TALLAHASSEE (AP) — William P. Foster, credited with innovating a much-imitated high-stepping style as founder and longtime director of the Florida A&M Marching 100 band, died Aug. 28. He was 91.
Foster died in Tallahassee, university officials said. They did not release a cause of death.
Foster served as the college marching band's director from 1946 until his retirement in 1998. He created more than 200 halftime pageants for the band at the historically black university.
He is credited with innovating marching band techniques, including a high-stepping style imitated by high school and college bands nationwide.
“He revolutionized marching band techniques in America,'” said Julian E. White, a former student of Foster's and the school's current band director and music department chairman. “The most exciting response you can get from an audience is their reaction to well choreographed dance routine steps. That's the kind of thing that Dr. Foster introduced.”
In 1989, the French chose the Marching 100 to represent the United States in the Bastille Day Parade in Paris, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution. Instead of traditional marching band music, the band played and danced to songs by James Brown.
Over the years, members of the Marching 100 have played at Super Bowls, the Olympics, the Grammy Awards and the inauguration of President Bill Clinton and Presideent Barack Obama.
The Marching 100 won the Sudler Intercollegiate Marching Band Trophy in 1985 and, in 1992, Sports Illustrated declared them the best marching band in the country.
The band has grown to more than 400 members, who wear green-and-orange uniforms. Many go on to careers as band directors and professional performers.
One of the best-known was jazz saxophonist Julian “Cannonball'' Adderley.
“As a visionary leader, [Foster] built America's greatest band by departing from the standard routines and maneuvers to showcase band pageantry,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons.
Photo: William Foster