Lawrence (Lauritz) Josiah Monsen

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Lawrence Josiah Munson (Monsen)

Also Known As: "Lauritz"
Birthdate: (72)
Birthplace: Kristiansand, Vest-Agder, Norge
Death: June 11, 1950 (72)
New York, NY, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of Lauritz Christian Andresen Monsen and (Ingertha) Josephine Pedersdatter (Halling)
Husband of Anna Jørgine Lee and Claire Tucker Munson
Father of Alexander Lawrence Munson; Henry Lee Munson; Marian ('Mickie') Josephine Munson; Anne Louise Leake and Lawrence Shipley Munson
Brother of Andrew P Munson; Inga Tomine Christiansen; Christian Severis Munson; (Johan) John Martin Monsen; Kjersten Agnes Monsen and 4 others

Occupation: music treacher and organist
Managed by: Kitty Munson Cooper
Last Updated:

About Lawrence (Lauritz) Josiah Monsen

Lawrence J. Munson was a well known organist and the owner of the Munson school of Music in Brooklyn, NY. He had studied in Paris under Guillmant and recorded for Victor records. He was born in Norway and emigrated to Brooklyn with his family in 1884. He married one of his music students. After her untimely death in an auto accident in 1929, he later married one of her closest friends who also predeceased him.

His obituary is online at

birth record: Kristiansand Kirkebok A-15, , p.162 l.58

the story of his emigration at age six is told here: and quoted on his grandfather's page Andreas Larsen

from letters to his son Larry in 1944:

My first musical instrument was a little mouth harmonica which gave me a great deal of pleasure, as I could play all the tunes I knew on it. From this I advanced to an accordeon which was easy meat for me. I remember on Sunday morning, my mother had me sit at an open window (in summer-time) and play hymns for the "non-church-going neighbors." Just how much good my musical missionary work did, I never learned – but I hope St. Peter puts it to credit! When I was eleven years old my older brother Christian bought a little house organ which was placed in the front room and excited my interest; - but alas the "children" were not allowed to touch it, so it was carefully locked! My brothers Christian and John soon learned to play hymns on it and one day my brother was trying to teach some visiting young ladies how to play the simple old "Jesus Lover of my Soul" with very poor success. After they went into the kitchen to have "afternoon coffee," I sat down and found the chords readily, of which I had made a mental note. And after that experience I was allowed to play, and soon lessons were arranged for me with Fröken Styhr (Miss Styhr) who was the choir director and organist of our church.

She had been well schooled in the old Leipsic method, but did not know how to teach children, but I must have made some progress anyway, because she, as well as all our friends, insisted that I make music my vocation. From the very beginning it was easy for me to memorize, and remember the first time I played in public was at a Christmas-time entertainment, when I was unexpectedly asked to play a Christmas Carol. It happened that the Superintendent asked to have a certain Carol sung, and the organist did not have the music with her, so as a last resort she turned to me who was close to the organ and asked me if I knew it. I simply nodded my head and sat down and played it correctly with the children and parents all singing lustily – as they always do in the Norwegian churches. Miss Styhr recommended me or rather advised me to go to some New York Conservatory and take a full music course. She said there was one on 14th St. New York. Shortly after that my father took the old 9th Ave "L" to 14th St and walked along until we came to "The Metropolitan College of Music" where I was enrolled as an organ student, after the teachers had "tried me out" on the piano. Father’s impression, as reported to mother, was: "Han tranger bare lidt parktis med benene." He only needs a little foot practice – meaning the pedal board of course.

from his son Alex's memories: (more information about the Music School and so forth at )

The Lee and the Munson family all went to the 27th Street church, as did most of the Norwegian community in Brooklyn. Dad always claimed that he had been there the day Mother was baptized, but we questioned this, and he admitted that he didn't know it at the time. (MMP: That was before they went to the 27th St. Church. It was at the Seamen's Church that Mother was baptized, and Dad's family may have been there on the same day.) They may have seen each other when Mother was delivering milk for Dadda while he had the grocery store.

But she met him shortly after, for sure, [ed note, see his diary - - he was her piano teacher ] since they became engaged when she was 16 and he was 22. They were married when she was 18 (MMP: 19) and he 25. Anna Lee and Lawrence J. Munson. (We finally found out what the J. stood for, although he refused to tell us for years. It stood for Josiah.)

  He had long since graduated from the harmonica to the piano. The piano was to be his career, that and the organ. Later, he performed at Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and even the Philadelphia sesquicentennial besides making a number of Victor records.
  He was a piano teacher and among his pupils were Mother and Aunt Helen. Aunt Helen told us laughingly, later, that sometimes they would hide when they saw him coming.
  Mother, being a lovely girl, had many would be suitors. Dad and Nathaniel Fedde (later a missionary) were the front runners. I'm glad Dad won out. She was a wonderful mother.
  They took an apartment for a year, and then Mother moved in with Dadda, Mormor, Uncle Henry, Uncle Herman, and Aunt Helen, on 8th Street. Dad went to Europe to study. [with Alexander Guilmant (organ) and Moritz Moskowski (piano). ] In 1914 they moved into their own house on 9th Street a block away from Dadda and his family. Dadda and Mormor moved to Hempstead Gardens. In 1916, Mother and Dad moved to Ovington Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
  They bought a music school from Kellerman and had a new sign put up over the entrance. The Munson School Of Music. Mother was the business woman and the guiding genius. The school did well. At one time they had 22 teachers for piano, violin, cello, voice, saxaphone, and organ, on staggered hours. Mother organized clubs for the various students: The Bach club, the Beethoven club, the Brahms club, and etc. It heightened the interest and they learned more about the various composers, and sometimes had a party.
  The June Recitals were always a big event at the school. Bay Ridge High School auditorium would be taken over for Friday evening and all day Saturday. I became the stage manager, placing music stands and chairs, and raising and lowering the piano lids for the two grand pianos. The students looked forward all year to the big recital week end.
  Our family moved to 117 Meadbrook Road in Garden City, in 1928. We were near the Garden City Country Club and the golf course.

from his son Henry's recollections at

In 1930 I entered Rutgers University and Dad was able to help me a little for the first year. By the summer of 1931, however, he told me he couldn't help me any more and the bank foreclosed our house. Mother's Dream house was gone. Marian gave up Simmons College and dedicated herself to helping all of us. Marian, Wiggles, Binks and I took an apartment in Garden City. Alex was already married. I remember Wiggles was so economical that we lived on $1 per day.

Dad would visit us once a week and six years later he remarried and I was his best man. Wiggles and I spent a week getting Five Oaks ready for their honeymoon.

Dad was a sweetheart. He was kind and had a good sense of humor. He was very distinguished and an excellent musician (piano and organ). He completed his musical training in Paris. He was a good speaker and I was always so proud of him when he was on a platform speaking or performing. He was really the cultural leader of the Norwegian-American Community while Dada was probably the outstanding business leader.

Dada was a generous contributor to the Norwegian Lutheran church and the Norwegian Lutheran Hospital

from his son Larry's recollections at

Dad was a talented musician but a poor businessman. As long as Mother was in charge, the Munson Institute of Music thrived. Without her, and assisted by the Great Depression, it barely survived. The bank foreclosed on the house we had moved to in Garden City, Long Island and we had to move into a small apartment on 223 Seventh Street there. Dad was a kind, caring father who left the children’s upbringing to my mother. He would dutifully deliver spankings when she asked him to. But his heart was never in them.

[ed note: summers at cragsmoor] Much of our activity was family centered. Since there were quite a few of us, and often had guests (who must have stayed at the Lee Vold Lodge). We would entertain each other. We loved to go on picnics. Sometimes we went to places in the valley which had swimming facilities. Other times we packed our picnic on our backs and went down to a number of groves we had prepared for this purpose in the woods below our house. We had a pine grove and a birch grove, for two that I remember. We would often do this in the evening and have campfires, which gave appropriate settings for ghost stories and singing.

Conversation, a much-neglected art today, was an important part of our lives. I can remember as a small boy listening to adult conversation as we all sat around the living room after dinner. Usually on such occasions we would have had a guest or two for dinner who added special interest to the sharing of views. Sometimes it would be a member of the staff at Dad’s school, or a minister that Mother had gotten to know in one of her varied religious activities. Once we had the tympanist from the Boston Symphony orchestra, a Mr. White, who held us all spell bound by his narratives.

more on conversation and cragsmoor from his daughter marion's recollections at

Life at Five Oaks was delightful. Sometimes Mother and Dad would get us into the living room and teach us children’s songs, some of which I still remember, and also hymns like "Angel Voices Ever Singing", and "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne". In the summer time, Dad (whom we called Papa until we grew older) had more time for practicing the piano. I enjoyed hearing him play. Whenever I hear those pieces now, I am reminded of those beautiful days in Cragsmoor. On Sunday evenings, people from the Lee Vold would come and fill up our living room and porch listening to Dad play. He seemed to play anything they asked for, but he made a specialty of improvising his own arrangements of Norwegian folk tunes. In the years before we had electricity, other evenings would find us sitting around the dining room table reading or playing games by the light of an oil lamp.
I have fond memories of good conversations around our old round oak dining room table. We often had interesting guests, and I enjoyed listening to them talking to our parents. Sometimes Dad would use our time together at the dinner table to tell us the stories of books he was reading. That was my introduction to books like "The Last of the Mohicans" and "The Count of Monte Cristo".

from recollections of one of his students, Rev. Dr. Royal Arlo Odegaard, at

It was the Winter of 1947, and New York was in the midst of an awful snow blizzard. Each time I was to go for a lesson, it was walking to the Bus, and then taking the Ferry to Manhattan, and also the Subway, over to Brooklyn. It was in the Organ Loft of the Old First Reformed Church on Carroll Street, where I would meet up with Dr. Munson. I really trembled-knowing he was a graduate of Paris Conservatory! However, He was as nice a man as I have ever known in my lifetime, and certainly he put me at ease immediately. Now for the koo-koo part!!! It was COLD up in that organ loft and I was wearing mittens. And I said, (remember, I was only 17 years old), "Oh, Dr. Munson, I do not think that I can play today without my mittens on!" Well, it was not long before I heard in a loud voice: "What?? Playing the organ with mittens on? Do you really think that Bach or Beethoven would try such a thing? Off mit those mittens!!!" And of course the lesson went very well that time.

It was on another time, and again the weather was not good, and I had to go to Brooklyn for another lesson. When I got there, again awful COLD up in that Organ Loft, but this time, I said: "Dr. Munson, I do not think that I can manage playing the organ, for one hand has to be up on the manuel, and the other on the lower, and my feet playing on those pedals, and I just do not think I can manage it." "MANAGE it?" Those words sounded tremendous to the ear as he asked me, "Do you drive a car?" "Yes," I said. "Well - if you drive, and you must use the clutch and the brake, and cars are coming against you, and are behind you, and ahead of you, and can you manage that?" "Yes," I said. "Well then why cannot you manage to play this instrument, when nobody is bothering you?" My defences were now totally down. Dr. Munson had won the War! Kitty, I only had a total of Seven Lessons with your Grandfather, but the memories of just being there with your Grandfather, and his sharing his great musical knowledge with me I shall treasure to my dying day.

from some memories of the Munson School of Music by a student there, by Gina Lie at

The few memories I have of Munson School of Music are from approx. 1935 and not very clear, but it's always strange to notice the things that stick in your mind. I recall dashing up Ovington Ave and running up some steps to a very old fashioned front porch and into this huge house where I was always greeted by the sound of musical instruments coming from all different directions. There was a big door on the left hand side leading into what looked like a living room where there was always a number of people in activity. Occasionally I could see a very dignified man, who seemed to be treated with utmost respect, in very much the same manner as the Principal at Public School 102. This man was known as Professor Munson, and could sense the feeling of reverence whenever he appeared. Sad to say that aside from a feeling of awe, I always looked upon him as a very old man, but then at my age at that time, anyone over the age of 20 would have been dated. It would have been interesting for me today to know his age in 1935. [ed note -he was 57]

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Lawrence (Lauritz) Josiah Monsen's Timeline

February 8, 1878
Kristiansand, Vest-Agder, Norge
July 8, 1907
Age 29
Brooklyn, NY, USA
February 7, 1910
Age 31
Brooklyn, NY, USA
October 11, 1911
Age 33
Brooklyn, NY, USA
February 10, 1914
Age 36
Brooklyn, NY, USA
January 10, 1920
Age 41
New York, Kings County, New York, United States
June 11, 1950
Age 72
New York, NY, USA