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Beloved Savannah Arts Academy band director remembered at Celebration of Life

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 10:31 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2021 at 12:43 AM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The community is mourning the loss of Savannah Arts Academy Band Director Federico Foster.

SCCPSS confirmed Foster’s death and sent WTOC the following statement on his passing:

“It is with sadness that we share the passing of Mr. Federico Foster. Though he worked for a short time as a substitute from 2005 to 2007, Mr. Foster was first employed full-time by the district in 2015 when he was hired as a Music/Chorus Teacher at Beach High. Following a year spent at Beach High, Mr. Foster transferred to the School of Liberal Studies at Savannah High where he worked as the Band Teacher for five years until this past summer when he transferred to become the Savannah Arts Academy band director.

The principal of Savannah Arts stated that in just a short time, Mr. Foster had already made a great impact on the school’s students and staff with his passion for music and love of teaching. Support is being provided to the school community by our district counseling staff.”

Foster was a WTOC Top Teacher in 2019. In an interview after winning that award, Foster told WTOC it was music that changed his life, even helped him go to college on a full scholarship.

A day after Foster’s death, the Auburn University’s Music Education Twitter page posted, calling Foster a bright light, gentle soul, passionate music educator, and a wonderful student and researcher.

Foster transferred to Savannah Arts Academy this past summer to become band director, and in a short time, the principal there said made a great impact on the school’s students and staff with his passion for music and love of teaching.

Foster passed away Tuesday at St. Joseph’s Hospital here in Savannah at the age of 40, according to his obituary. According to his family, he died from COVID-19.

Federico Foster was affectionately known as Rico.

“So lost and so hurt by this,” said his father Willis Blake.

A loss and pain Federico Foster’s family will never get over.

“We were so looking forward to his future, and I think everybody was looking forward to his future. We were so looking forward to it.”

Ever since he was a child, the family says Rico’s future looked promising. Rico was smart, genuine, hardworking and shared the family’s talent in music.

“I knew drum was his favorite because Rico beat on everything,” said his mother Marcia Foster.

Those funny, childhood memories will remain in Rico’s brothers’ hearts.

“Breaking stuff, holes in the wall,” said his brother Demetrius Blake.

But the lesson that will stick with them for a lifetime - their brother’s work ethic.

“Understand what your strengths are, understand what your talents are, understand what your passion is, and go get your vision. Go get your goal,” said his Brother Fernando Foster.

Rico motivated his brothers.

“He was the constant rabbit I was trying to chase, even to this day. We often talked about, we’re both in PhD programs, so we would talk about that,” said his brother Derrick Snead.

Rico’s drive, his family says, helped him become the band director at Savannah Arts Academy. His brothers shared the obstacles he had to overcome to follow his passion of music and education.

“He never lost sight of his dream and never lost sight that that was his passion,” said Foster.

The family says Rico wanted to share his love for music with the youth, and show all the opportunities available to them.

And they believe he was able to accomplish just that during his two years as a substitute and six years as a full-time teacher with the district.

“He would have students that would want to be every bit of him,” said Blake.

While their loved one is gone, the family says he lives within all of his students, and everyone whose lives were impacted by Rico.

And with that, they know his legacy will continue.

“He wanted to create something that would last generations beyond us,” said Foster.

A Celebration of Life service was held on Saturday, September 25 at Savannah State University’s Tiger Arena. Several people spoke about Foster’s passion for music and for the teaching of music.

One of the many students he inspired included his nephew Evan Swindell, who shared that he never knew how to play a trombone, but his Uncle Rico kept working with him.

“I’m thankful he was put into my life, my friends’ lives who were in band, my family’s lives, my siblings. He was a great person and I’m pretty sure all of you can say the same thing,” he said.

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