XENIA — It’s only fitting that Ray Foster’s favorite musical was “The Music Man” because to many in Xenia that’s what he was.
But to anyone who ever interacted with Foster, he was a whole lot more. The long-time Xenia resident died earlier this week after a long illness. He was the Xenia High School band director for 21 years, during which time he brought excellence, inclusion, and pride to all of the school’s band programs.
“He was the real deal,” former Cedarville University music professor Michael P. DiCuirci said in a letter to the Gazette. “Ray truly had a heart for teaching and many of our music education student teachers were placed under his supervision and mentorship. His fine high school band program was exemplary as they performed great concerts, and he patiently groomed and assisted many student teachers from other nearby universities as well. We will always be grateful for his investment in peoples’ lives both in the Xenia community and wherever he was led to make music happen.”
While he played instruments, Foster never played favorites. According to his obituary, whether a young person was a veteran member of the concert band, marching band, pep band, or jazz band, or a study hall student he spotted and recruited to come learn an instrument and join the band, they felt his commitment to their value both as a person and as a musician.
“He invited me to be in, and I was in the concert band playing the trumpet,” XHS health and physical education teacher Kent Anderson said. “He loved music, Xenia athletics, and the band. He was a tremendous teacher and leader of young men and women in the Xenia school system.”
He wasn’t just a band director, however. Foster did whatever he could to help instill the love of music in Xenia’s youngest people.
“He was so involved in the elementary music program, finding kids instruments, lessons if they needed it, and so on,” Anderson said. “He knew that would lead to a junior high band that was large, and eventually a terrific concert, jazz, and ultimately (a high school) marching band that was huge, and so well respected in the Miami Valley. His band used to have over 100 marching strong and was second to none in the area.”
In 1986, Foster’s final year as director, the XHS marching band received the coveted Superior rating at the Ohio Music Educators’ Association state-wide marching band competition.
Two years later, Foster began the Greene County Adult Concert Band, which provided avenues for members of the community to dust off instruments they had played, join with others from the area, and rediscover the joy of performing music together.
“It meant a great deal to me and to my fellow musicians to be a part of this prestigious ensemble giving us the opportunity to keep making music for the last 30-plus years as other directors filled in as conductors,” DiCuirci said. “It’s difficult to imagine how many lives he touched and impacted by using his God-given talents to enrich others with his music. Ray helped numerous band directors serving as a representative of Hauer Music in Dayton, and he adjudicated various ensembles with suggestions for helping them to improve.”
A fierce Ohio State Buckeyes fan, and avid golfer, Foster was inducted into the Xenia Community Schools Foundation Hall of Honor in 2011.
A celebration of life is planned for late spring 2021.