Wind Ensemble concert Sept. 30 will pay tribute to pair of legendary collegiate band conductors

The NIU Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Ronnie Wooten, will present a tribute to legendary collegiate band conductors Harry Begian and William P. Foster during an 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30, concert in the Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.

The program will include Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Variations for Wind Band.” The highlight of the evening will be the performances of Alfred Reed’s “Armenian Dances,” which was written for Begian, and “Marche Brilliante,” which was composed by Foster.

Harry Begian
Harry Begian

Begian (April 24, 1921 – July 26, 2010) and his two brothers were first-generation Americans born to Armenian immigrants.

Begian served as the third director of bands at the University of Illinois from 1970 until his retirement in 1984. A charter member of American School Band Directors Association, he was also president of American Bandmasters Association, College Band Directors National Association, Omicron Delta Kappa, and an honorary member of Phi Beta Mu and the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association.

His professional affiliations include memberships in Phi Mu Alpha and Phi Delta Kappa, and honorary memberships in Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma. Begian was recipient of the NBA Citation of Excellence, ASBDA Edwin Franko Goldman Award, Notre Dame St. Cecelia Award, Grainger Medallion, was elected to the National Band Association (NBA) Academy of Wind and Percussion Arts, and was enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame of Distinguished Band Conductors.

His more than 60 recorded performances with the University of Illinois Symphonic Bands comprise one of the largest and finest collections of recorded band performances in existence. Begian’s legacy lives on with the University of Illinois Bands, and the significant imprint on band history he forged while at Illinois will forever be remembered.

William P. Foster
William P. Foster

Foster (Aug. 25, 1919 – Aug. 28, 2010), also known as “The Law” and “The Maestro,” was the creator of the noted Florida A&M University “Marching 100.” He served as the band’s director from 1946 to his retirement in 1998. His innovations revolutionized college marching band technique and the perceptions of the collegiate band.

Foster was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, the National Band Association for Distinguished Band Conductors Hall of Fame, the Florida Music Educators Association Hall of Fame and the Afro-American Hall of Fame, among others. He also served as national president of the American Bandmasters Association and the College Band Directors National Association and was appointed to the National Council on the Arts by President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Congress.

He wrote the book “The Man Behind the Baton,” authored more than 18 articles for professional journals, four published marching band shows, and the textbook “Band Pageantry,” considered “The Bible” for the marching band. He is also the composer of “National Honors March,” “March Continental” and “Centennial Celebration.”

Foster was the first recipient of the United States Achievement Academy Hall of Fame Award and the Outstanding Educator Award presented by the School of Education Society of the University of Kansas Alumni Association. In 1992, Sports Illustrated declared “The 100” as the best marching band in the country. In 1998, Foster was inducted as a Great Floridian by the Museum of Florida History. He was also a director of the prestigious McDonald’s All-American High School Band (1980–1992).

The concert is free and open to the public. The NIU Music Building, 300 Lucinda Ave., is accessible to all. For those unable to attend, this concert also will be live-streamed.

For more information, contact Lynn Slater at (815) 753-1546 or lslater@niu.edu.

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