Strike up the band

Brooklyn United Marching Band hosts three school bands from Norway

Brooklyn United

Photo: Brooklyn United Media Team
In January, the Brooklyn United Marching Band was happy to join forces with three student bands visiting from Norway.


Victoria Hofmo
Brooklyn, N.Y.

As their January press release read, the Brooklyn United Marching Band played host “in their hearts, homes, and borough to 35 youngsters from the European country of Norway, in celebration of Dr. King and cultural unity!” 

The Brooklyn-based band rehearses in Crown Heights and is often the opening act for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. They describe themselves as a combination of musicianship and pageantry. An incredibly dynamic group, they don’t just produce music, they create mellifluous choreography while deftly playing instruments.

The visiting contingent was comprised of three Norwegian school bands: Kjelsås skoles musikkorps, Uranienborg skoleskorp, and Marienlyst skoles musikkorps. Their conductor is Marius Gjersø. Each band has 70–90 members, ages 7–19. This trip included all corps members aged 14 and older, who play drums, brass, and woodwind instruments.

This meeting of the bands was the continuation of a beautiful friendship that began in 2018, when the Marienlyst Band came to Brooklyn to perform at the 17th of May parade and at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church. 

Brooklyn United

As their January press release read, the Brooklyn United Marching Band played host “in their hearts, homes, and borough to 35 youngsters from the European country of Norway, in celebration of Dr. King and cultural unity!”
The Brooklyn-based band rehearses in Crown Heights and is often the opening act for the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. They describe themselves as a combination of musicianship and pageantry. An incredibly dynamic group, they don’t just produce music, they create mellifluous choreography while deftly playing instruments.
The visiting contingent was comprised of three Norwegian school bands: Kjelsås skoles musikkorps, Uranienborg skoleskorp, and Marienlyst skoles musikkorps. Their conductor is Marius Gjersø. Each band has 70–90 members, ages 7–19. This trip included all corps members aged 14 and older, who play drums, brass, and woodwind instruments.
This meeting of the bands was the continuation of a beautiful friendship that began in 2018, when the Marienlyst Band came to Brooklyn to perform at the 17th of May parade and at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church.
Live Lundar, head of the board of Marienlyst Skoles Musikkorps, explained, “During our stay, we were lucky to meet Ty Brown and have a very inspiring workshop at Brooklyn United. This was the start of our collaboration and friendship with the whole B.U. family.”
“I taught them some music, marching, and choreography,” said Brown, who directs the Brooklyn United band.
In thanks, 40 members of Brooklyn United were guests in Oslo, Norway, during the Syttende mai celebrations the following year. “The drumline and dancers from B.U. performing with Norwegian school bands attracted a lot of attention and made the headline news,” Lundar said.
They even performed for the king and queen. But it was not all fun and games and music. There was also a very serious exchange about timely and vital topics: education, careers, poverty, and how politics can be used to improve lives.    
I asked Brown about the band’s experience and impressions of Norway and Norwegians. “It was an amazing experience,” he said enthusiastically. “As an educator with a focus on cultural exchange, it’s usually music that we share. But this trip the exchanges were like wow! This time we spoke about politics and society.”
They discussed the differences in political systems, distribution of wealth and resources to disadvantaged populations, and racial relations, as well. “Racism was a major conversation for us,” Brown said. “We often perform for a 100% white audience. When we got to Norway, we didn’t feel like race came into play. We stayed at their homes.”
When it was Brooklyn United’s turn to host in January 2020, they reciprocated by also opening up their homes and were “received with great hospitality,” Lundar said. The visit was chock-full of wonderful treats, from the trendy—visiting the headquarters of Facebook and Instagram—to old school—bowling and having band practice together. The whirlwind trip ended with a brunch sponsored by the Brown Memorial Baptist Church, where the Norwegian band gave a special performance for the congregation.  
The trip was “an extraordinary experience,” according to Lundar. It was “educational and a huge inspiration for the Norwegian youth, also a lot of fun with good friends.” Is this the end of this wonderful friendship? “No way!” Brown said, “We plan on doing it again and will probably go there next year.” 
Brown pointed out another connection between Norway and Martin Luther King Jr. and how this cross-cultural relationship that has developed is an example of the great peacemaker’s hopes. “His Nobel Prize was handed to him in Norway, and we believe that we are keeping the dream alive by the sharing of both cultures [through] our youth, as Dr. King believed, we can all live and thrive together with more understanding of cultures and [during] this weekend we … show[ed] the world how that looks.”
Whether through sharing our specific music, our unique cultures, or our varied perspectives—and in this case all three simultaneously—great synergy can occur when we band together. Pun intended. 

Live Lundar, head of the board of Marienlyst Skoles Musikkorps, explained, “During our stay, we were lucky to meet Ty Brown and have a very inspiring workshop at Brooklyn United. This was the start of our collaboration and friendship with the whole B.U. family.” 

“I taught them some music, marching, and choreography,” said Brown, who directs the Brooklyn United band.

In thanks, 40 members of Brooklyn United were guests in Oslo, Norway, during the Syttende mai celebrations the following year. “The drumline and dancers from B.U. performing with Norwegian school bands attracted a lot of attention and made the headline news,” Lundar said. 

They even performed for the king and queen. But it was not all fun and games and music. There was also a very serious exchange about timely and vital topics: education, careers, poverty, and how politics can be used to improve lives.    

I asked Brown about the band’s experience and impressions of Norway and Norwegians. “It was an amazing experience,” he said enthusiastically. “As an educator with a focus on cultural exchange, it’s usually music that we share. But this trip the exchanges were like wow! This time we spoke about politics and society.”

They discussed the differences in political systems, distribution of wealth and resources to disadvantaged populations, and racial relations, as well. “Racism was a major conversation for us,” Brown said. “We often perform for a 100% white audience. When we got to Norway, we didn’t feel like race came into play. We stayed at their homes.”

When it was Brooklyn United’s turn to host in January 2020, they reciprocated by also opening up their homes and were “received with great hospitality,” Lundar said. The visit was chock-full of wonderful treats, from the trendy—visiting the headquarters of Facebook and Instagram—to old school—bowling and having band practice together. The whirlwind trip ended with a brunch sponsored by the Brown Memorial Baptist Church, where the Norwegian band gave a special performance for the congregation.  

Brooklyn United

Photo: Brooklyn United Media Team
Ty Brown conducts the combined marching band performance of Marienlyst Skoles Musikkorps and Uranienborg Skolekorps with the Brooklyn United at Brown Memorial Church in Brooklyn. The cultural exchange in celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.

The trip was “an extraordinary experience,” according to Lundar. It was “educational and a huge inspiration for the Norwegian youth, also a lot of fun with good friends.” Is this the end of this wonderful friendship? “No way!” Brown said, “We plan on doing it again and will probably go there next year.” 

Brown pointed out another connection between Norway and Martin Luther King Jr. and how this cross-cultural relationship that has developed is an example of the great peacemaker’s hopes. “His Nobel Prize was handed to him in Norway, and we believe that we are keeping the dream alive by the sharing of both cultures [through] our youth, as Dr. King believed, we can all live and thrive together with more understanding of cultures and [during] this weekend we … show[ed] the world how that looks.”

Whether through sharing our specific music, our unique cultures, or our varied perspectives—and in this case all three simultaneously—great synergy can occur when we band together. Pun intended. 

This article originally appeared in the February 21, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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