In Memoriam: Dr. William P. Foster

Dr. William P. Foster (1919-2010)

A genius has passed on.

A consummate teacher, musician, and leader.

Dr. Foster was a visionary who took his personal lack of opportunity and turned it into a marching band that perpetually creates opportunities for hundreds of talented and bright musicians to receive and education and travel the country.

He created the “Marching 100” in 1946 with less than 30 members and borrowed instruments. The band’s name, “the 100,” that was then aspirational is now a funny misnomer for the 400+ musicians and nine drum majors who take to the field at halftime.

Many of my earliest memories of Florida A&M University Rattler-dom  are tied up in Dr. Foster’s creation. My parents had the album FAMU Spirit on vinyl and I remember playing it until I had memorized their arrangement of “If Loving You is Wrong” and all the trumpet fanfares. The “surround sound” of the band made me want to go to that place called “FAMU” and be a part of whatever was going on there. Even in my Rattler-centric family, to me, Dr. Foster and his Marching 100 was the embodiment of all things FAMU.

Dr. Foster and the Marching 100 achieved astounding levels of popularity and success not because of the novelty of being black kids from the South who could play a tune, but because they were excellent and wholeheartedly embraced their own musical traditions along with those of John Phillip Sousa . Dr. Foster’s vision of perfection carried hundreds of talented and hard-working students from Tallahassee, Florida to: Paris for Bastille Day, three Presidential Inaugural Parades (including President Obama’s), numerous Super Bowl appearances, television commercials, and countless television and live appearances.

The impact of Dr. Foster’s vision of what a band should be cannot be overstated. Every HBCU Marching Band is a direct beneficiary of his ideas. Even non-HBCUs are getting on it. The abounding presence of HBCU band tradition in pop culture; the transformation of half time from soda break to headliner; the ascent of the Marching band as University ambassador and money maker all have their origin in Foster’s vision of how a marching band should be.

It feels apropos to say farewell to Dr. Foster at the beginning of the football season.

The Fall is the season of the FAMU Marching 100. Their presence is ubiquitous as you see young band members toting instruments while scurrying from “the Caf” to “the Patch” to Foster-Tanner Hall. Their sound reverberates throughout the campus from dusk to dawn as you hear trumpet fanfares practiced in the morning and tuba’s tightening up the bassline to “Hay” in the evening.

For you vision, life, and legacy Rattler Nation gives Total Praise.

Onward and Upward Dr. Foster!

Onward and Upward Rattlers!

Five Points: The “Bye-Bye Atlanta” Edition

***“Five Points.” Named for the heart of the MARTA train lines, it’s a blog where I’ll quickly highlight five random things that I’m thinking about, tech stuff, or some other piece of randomosity.***

Yes, I know it’s been a million days since I blogged. I’ve missed you, but sometimes you get so busy doing living that there isn’t much time (or energy) to write about it. That’s a problem if I’m trying to finish my dissertation right? Nevertheless, since we last spoke I traveled to Africa, turned a year older, saw Robert Glasper live, and finished my Atlanta fieldwork experiment.

Finally, I really am “all but dissertation.” There’s nothing left for me to do but write the damn thing.

…Well that, and drive 1900 miles to Phoenix, Arizona.

So let’s get on with it!

(PS: Happy Birthday KSH!)
(PPS: A year later and I still can’t believe you’re gone MJ)

1. Vive L’Algerie!
I went to Algeria! It was amazing. Check me out on my summer vacay.
2. How I Got Over is Fire!
Seriously. I aint bought a Roots album since The Tipping Point and I think I ended up using it as a coaster. This album is mellow and kind of moody. A friend pointed out that there are no bangers on it, but that’s okay to me because it’s a seamless listening experience from start to finish. I literally drove to the record store and bought the CD and have been listening to it ever since.
3. Read this dope ass article about the making of Outkast’s classic album Aquemini. Thanx Improv?!

4. It’s my last weekend in Atlanta so come party with me Saturday and Sunday!

5. Where am I going??

My impending move to Phoenix gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite Isaac Hayes songs

Take This Quick Survey Please & Thank You

TGIF & Happy Mother’s Day All!

Do me a solid and complete a teeny tiny survey for me. PLEASE. Click here.

The Listening Post: Atlanta Funk Sampler

So here are a few of my favorite old school funk jams by groups that are based here in Atlanta. Atlanta’s funk output may not have been as prolific as Ohio, but here are some songs that are guaranteed to get your week started off right!

First up, Brick. (By the way, Jimmy Brown of Brick is the father of producer/recording artist/musician Sleepy Brown.)

I know you India.Arie and Akinyele fans will recognize this one

And Brick’s biggest hit

Now on to the SOS Band. The two songs I chose are absolute GEMS produced by the two of the best producers ever in the history of the world…Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis.

And this is a personal fave of mine that sends me back to childhood

All right, last but certainly not list. One of my favorite songs ever: Mother’s Finest with “Love Changes.”

Nothing Left for YOU to Do But Dance!

© Jamiroquai

Lots going on this weekend and I have something for you Friday, Saturday, AND Sunday, hope to see you there!




Thinking is Hard…I See Why People Avoid It!

Wow. I really haven’t blogged a month of Sundays.

In that time Dr. Dorothy Height and Guru passed away. God blessed their lives.

So where have I been? On a long dark quest to find my dissertation thesis statement. My lord, was it a difficult and frustrating journey! It took me about a friggin MONTH to write a sentence that I felt accurately described what my dissertation is about. When I finally thought I was well on my way, I showed it to my god-sent mentor and she (lovingly) hacked it to pieces.  So then I spent the next week, ruminating, drafting, scribbling, and talking to try and search the depths of my soul (and brain) to figure out what statement am I really trying to make with my research.

Then FINALLY after inhaling some yummy crab cakes from Baltimore Crab & Seafood and while downing a beer at Slice, I took out a pen and started writing in my composition book (how romantically antiquated, right?).  There, on that bar stool, the thesis sentence to end all thesis sentences finally came to me!  HALLELUJAH!


Well, maybe it wasn’t the best thesis sentence ever, but it was a helluva lot stronger and better than its predecessor. Even god-sent mentor thought so! So now I have something I’ve never had before, an anchor. It’s a pivot point that is based on the theoretical and the observable. It’s a governing idea that determines what makes it in and what stays out of my dissertation’s focus. It’s a sentence that is specific enough to reel in my tangents, but flexible enough to grow with my writing process.

I feel much better about life now that my writing seems to have (some) direction.

So what have I learned?

Thinking is incredibly hard (and time consuming). It’s a humbling matrix of activities that include writing, reading, thinking, playing, listening, and talking. Perhaps the most difficult part is that the end result, the idea itself, doesn’t always materialize on our time schedule. Thus it requires oodles of patience (which I had to learn to develop).

In the end, there’s a reason why this is called a “Doctor of Philosophy” degree. I am called to find some aspect of life and deeply consider it, interrogate it, contemplate what I find, and write up my experience and its results. I’ve grown to understand and accept that my project most certainly isn’t perfect and neither will be my dissertation, but I won’t let that deter me from completing my task. Or as a Ph.D. friend aptly said, “I won’t let perfection be the enemy of the good.”

PS: I deliberately didn’t include my dissertation in this blog. I’m saving it for its big reveal. But here’s a better gift since I’ve been so obsessed with Quincy Jones lately.

This Tuesday Night Won’t Suck. Thanx Janelle Monae!

In my mind Tuesday nights are kind of like the NIT Tournament of weekday nights. It’s the loser night of the week. It’s the filler between manic Mondays and Humpday Wednesday.

Fortunately, tonight won’t be just another boring Tuesday night because tonight I’m going to check out Grammy-nominated Janelle Monae at Smith’s Olde Bar. For a long time I’ve really liked, supported, and rooted for her (even when i couldn’t get all the way into her songs too tough). Sometimes you just root for artists that you believe should do well. Anyway, that all changed when i listened to 2012 with Janelle Monae & Jaspects. For some reason, that song was a portal through which I was able to move from distant admirer, to fan of her catalog.

Now two things I always knew for sure about her: she can sure as hell sang and she does a helluva live show. I mean, just listen to her vocals on “Smile” or the acoustic version of her “Sincerely Jane.” Her pristine vocal diction and clarity remind me of Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. Love it.

Even with all her vocal talent, makes her live show more than worth your while.  Watch her live version of “Letting Go;” it highlights her fun and engaging side. I’m into it.

So tonight, rather than have warmed over Easter dinner leftovers, or zone out to television reruns, or ignore my dissertation writing, I’m going for a heapin’ helping of some good ass live music.

And I’ll leave you with her latest video. It’s “Tightrope” featuring Big Boi.

Happy Tuesday Everybody!