Biographical / Historical
Robert E. Foster was born in Raymondville, Texas on January 21, 1939. In 1945, at the age of 6, he began receiving instruction in cornet performance under his father, who was a cornetist and high school band director. From 1950 to 1957 he was selected to All-District, All-Regional and All-State Band each year, and appeared with the Corpus Christi Municipal Band in 1954. In 1955 he began to study the trumpet, and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education. During his undergraduate years he was elected president of the Symphonic Band and the Longhorn Band, and studied band arranging and orchestration. In 1964 he graduated with a Masters of Education from the University of Texas at Houston.
While at the University of Texas at Austin, Robert E. Foster served as band and orchestra director at O. Henry Junior High School in Austin, Texas from 1961 to 1962. Upon graduation he served as band and orchestra director at Lamar Senior High School in Houston, Texas from 1962 to 1964, while also performing as an alternate trumpet player with the Houston Symphony and the Houston Grand Opera. He then accepted a position as Assistant Director of Bands and trumpet professor at the University of Florida in 1963, taking over as Associate Director of Bands from 1965 until 1971 when he was appointed Director of Bands at the University of Kansas. While at Kansas, he helped to grow the program from one of a concert band and a marching band to a program involving over 600 students in three concert bands, a wind ensemble, two basketball bands, three jazz ensembles, and a nationally recognized marching band. He helped to establish and chair a doctoral program in wind band conducting, and has conducted or adjudicated in 37 states and throughout North America, Europe, Japan, and Singapore. Under Foster, the KU Symphonic Band was selected to perform at six MENC National Conventions, five College Band Directors National Association Conferences, and four American Bandmasters Association Conventions. The KU Marching Band under Foster received the Sudler Trophy from the John Philip Sousa Foundation in 1989, and was listed as one of the top ten college marching bands by Sports Illustrated in 1994. In 2002 Robert E. Foster retired as Director of Bands and continues to teach at the University of Kansas, School of Music. From 2002 to 2009 he served as the Assistant Chair of the Department of Music and Dance.
While at the University of Kansas, Foster was elected to membership in the American Bandmasters Association in 1975, serving as President in 1992. He has also served as a member of the National Band Association, Concert Band Directors National Association since 1971, the Kansas Music Educators Association, and the John Philip Sousa Foundation, of which he served as vice-president in 2019. He has recorded over 20 records, both with the University of Kansas bands and others, written eight books, and composed, arranged or edited over 170 compositions for concert band and orchestra. Other significant awards include induction into the Hall of Fame for Distinguished Conductors by the National Band Association in 2006, induction into the Kansas Music Educators Association Hall of Fame in 2010, recognition as a Distinguished Member of Sigma Alpha Iota in 2010, the Outstanding Bandmaster Award from Phi Beta Mu in 2010, and receiving the ASCAPLUS Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2009.
Foster married Becky Cox and the couple has three children, Becky Egan, Randy Foster, and Robert Foster Jr. Their son Rob Foster Jr. currently serves as the Director of Bands at Haskell Indian Nations University and also works as composer and arranger for marching band productions. Robert Foster currently resides with his wife in Lawrence, Kansas, where he is Professor Emeritus at the University of Kansas. He continues an active schedule as a conductor, clinician, and adjudicator, and serves as the director of the Lawrence City Band and educational consultant for Wingert-Jones Publications.