Inside the home studio of percussionist David Foster, you will find a xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba, vibraphone, assorted snare drums, cymbals, triangles, tambourines, and hundreds of assorted sticks and mallets. “I think the only instrument I don't have is a set of chimes,” David observes. Because symphony percussionists are required to play many different instruments at the highest level, it is necessary to own or have ready access to all of these. Percussionists must practice for hours before the first rehearsal, making sure their rhythm is airtight, their strokes consistent. For David, most of this practicing occurs at night. His days are spent working as a Senior Director at Capital One, heading up the bank's Consumer Credit Policy and Governance department.
It is hard to say which career David considers a side job: music or business. He is among the 40 musicians employed by the RSO on a per service basis, meaning that he is hired only when more than two percussionists are needed to perform a piece. Therefore, there is no question as to which occupation has the upper hand financially; last season, he played about 75 services with the RSO, including rehearsals and concerts. But music is his passion.
While he was a Percussion Performance major at Virginia Commonwealth University, studying with such respected professors at Allan Blank and Dika Newlin, David won the 1981 Virginia Music Teachers' Association Collegiate Artist Competition on solo marimba. That same year, while he was still a student at VCU, he won a position in the Richmond Symphony under the baton of Jacques Houtmann. “I can remember watching him,” David says. “I was mesmerized, thinking 'This is art!'”
Having lived in Virginia his whole life, David decided to give up his symphony job after two years and travel around the country with “Disney on Ice”, serving as both the percussionist and the assistant conductor. The adventures continued when he won a one-year position with the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. This was where he decided that he would always want to be in an orchestra. The PSO performed not one but two Mahler symphonies that year in their fabulous hall. David enjoyed playing alongside “fantastic percussionists who taught me a great deal.”
When his year was up, he returned to Richmond and began freelancing and taking auditions. Living right around the corner from him at the intersection of Kensington and Boulevard was Catherine Hubert, a beautiful violinist whom he knew from the symphony. The two of them kept bumping into each other until, in 1986, they gave in and got married. That same year, David again won a spot in the Richmond Symphony.
In the interest of starting a family, David continued auditioning for full-time symphony jobs, but as a back-up plan, he re-enrolled at VCU and graduated with a Masters degree in accounting five years later. During this time, David and Catherine became the proud parents of a baby girl, Adrianna.
In 1992, David got his first job outside of music at KPMG, an accounting firm, a job which ultimately led him to Capital One. A few years later, because he wanted to round out his business education, he attended Duke University and graduated in the top 10% of his class, all while holding down jobs at Capital One and the Richmond Symphony.
“Finding the time” is a recurring challenge in many of our lives these days, but David seems to manage just fine. He describes his impressive balancing act as “difficult, but completely worth it.” Not stressful, not crazy, just difficult. Indeed, David's demeanor is remarkably chill; he has a kind, open smile that invites you to engage in pleasant, easy conversation. In other words, if he is stressed, he doesn't take it out socially. And if he isn't stressed, we might attribute that to his home yoga practice, or the fact that he hits the gym regularly, or that he plays jazz with his daughter, a vocalist, on occasion. Whatever his secret, it is surely not that he skimps on practice. Even while pursuing a career in business, he has remained committed to keeping his level of playing high so that he can continue to perform with “the amazing group of musicians that is the RSO”.