Cultural Exchange as a Vehicle for Youth Development

About the Exchange between the Field Band Foundation, South Africa and the Norwegian Band Federation, Norway
by Anja Poulsen, PULSE 7, The Field Band Foundation

In 2001, the South African Field Band Foundation (FBF) and the Norwegian Band Federation (NMF) joined forces to create an exchange program that shares knowledge, promotes cultural exchange, and, as is now evident, creates career pathways. Each year, 4-5 participants are chosen based on their ability to be positive role models, to learn and share their knowledge, and to make an impact in both communities. This now 18 year-old program provides a unique opportunity for professional exchange and has resulted in a rich cross-pollination between the FBF and the NMF.

In Norway, the exchange participants work closely together with the NMF to achieve its core mission to make wind bands a more popular and visible spare-time activity for all Norwegian people. One way the participants support this mission is through helping to improve and integrate music programs in inner-city, low-income schools—while also planning Summer PULSE and Winter PULSE band camps. These two camps increase the accessibility of the NMF to kids that have not participated in the band program before.

“These camps are crucial for many kids and for the community bands. The kids come in the beginning not able to play a single note. They learn fast and by the end of the week they are already able to play. That sends them home with a high motivation, high sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem.”—Bongani Goliath

Since 2013, the exchange program has emphasized the relationship between music and health, and this year, the program in Norway had a particular focus on kids with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

As a result of the exchange, several facets of the NMF program have been integrated into the FBF. At the start of each year, the South African participants who return from Norway work alongside the Norwegian exchange participants to implement a similar Summer PULSE camp for the FBF in December. The camp is fully planned and executed through the collaboration and leadership of the exchange students.

In South Africa, the exchange program has also created an integrated lifeskills program. The staff incorporate interactive and engaging activities into biweekly rehearsals through musical exercises, discussions, and games where the band members gain knowledge about important subjects like resilience, critical thinking, AIDS/HIV, Tuberculosis, respect, bullying, and healthy decision-making. To support this core educational area, the exchange participants have created a library of life skills guides and activities that include video instructions linked to every life skill subject. Additionally, the Norwegians, together with two former African participants who are now full time employed in FBF, visit all 23 FBF projects to hold a one week workshop to educate the staff and share knowledge about musical and chosen lifeskill subjects.

Beyond the exchange of knowledge and skills about music and health, both South African and Norwegian participants in the program encounter many career opportunities. In Norway, almost all former participants are working with culture, where most participate in local bands either as conductor, musician, parent, or all three. They also assist with the band camps and activities through NMF, while others have administrative roles inside NMF.

The South Africans who have participated in the exchange return from Norway personally and educationally transformed.

“I am not the same person. I have grown so much this year. Through working with Norwegian kids and being in Norway, I learned how special kids are and how important it is to belong to a group. I have acquired new leadership skills, such as effective planning as a guiding tool to a successful rehearsal, and membership development, which I will bring back and implement in my field band. This will also improve the teamwork among the tutors.”—Bongani Goliath

Photo at The National Championship. Credit: The Field Band Foundation, South Africa.

Bongani’s story is similar to many other past participants, which speaks to the consistency and quality of experience exchange participants encounter. He is a 33-year old South African who has become a fully-integrated part of FBF. He began his journey as a band member and is now employed full-time for his local band as a Project Manager.

Another South African who both went on a cultural exchange and managed to create a career inside FBF is Peter Maluleke. He went one year to Norway and now has a full time job in the head office as a part of the education team:

“When I came to Field Band, I was about to enter high school, but did not have money to continue my studies. Through the lessons I got from Norwegians during the year I stayed and worked there, I managed to create a career. I was given awareness and learned important values about raising children, gender equality, and how to be independent.”—Peter Maluleke

In the words of Nelson Mandela, former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary: “It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world.”

Photos from The National Championship, The Field Band Foundation, South Africa.

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