breathed and lived music. I created, played and
taught music. I passed my gift on to my children, my
friends, my clients, my people. Unlike many of us,
very early in life, I discovered that my purpose in
life was music.
What was I telling my children, my wife? What was I
To understand my message you must understand my
It was not easy for
me to realize that like so many other musicians, my
own country would not allow me to earn a decent
living for myself and my family based on my talents
as a musician. It was not easy to have to work
outside of my gifted area in order to help support
the family but I did. It was not easy for me to keep
creating music and watch others benefit while I
struggled to make ends meet. But I never stopped
creating, writing, playing and teaching music.
It was not easy for me to watch my children growing
up without being able to use my gift to help them
how a father wants to help. But I never stopped
creating, writing, playing and teaching.
It was not easy for me to embrace the PAN as my
instrument of choice and be paid a pittance for
performing while others who chose non-Caribbean
instruments and used electronics instead of
musicianship to create music were paid thousands for
pressing buttons. But I never stopped creating,
writing, playing and teaching.
It was not easy to perform and to have to walk the
streets, knock on doors and make calls seeking to
collect my fees. It was not easy to perform and not
be paid. Yet I never stopped creating, writing,
playing and teaching.
It was not easy to leave my family, my home, my
friends, my country for England to try to use my
gift to earn a living. But I did. Strangely, it was
there that I discovered that the respect,
appreciation and rewards I received for my gift in
that foreign place far exceeded what I and many
others still experience here in Dominica. I seized
the opportunities to get professional training, to
travel widely and to share my blossoming gift with
strangers. I grew as a musician, as a person. I
developed into a more complete musician, writer and
What then did I do? Did I get angry with you for
treating me and my gift with disrespect? Did I say
like so many others who live overseas, that I would
never return to that place that has caused me and
my family so much pain?
No! Alan was bigger than that.
Alan was greater than the pettiness and hard times
that he knew so well and that he knew still existed
in Dominica. I
had prepared myself to come back home and that is
exactly what I did. I came home to continue the
journey of creating, writing, playing and teaching
music and promoting PAN.
What is the Maestro’s message to you?
First, I am
reminding you that everyone has been given a gift by
the Creator. We must take the time
to discover that gift, to nurture and develop it and
most important, to share it with others. I remind
you that our gifts are not meant solely for our own
enrichment but must be shared freely with all who
need and want it.
I am telling the musicians and artistes that
notwithstanding the hardships, the disrespect, the
loneliness, the financial challenges associated with
being a gifted person, we must never stop creating
and never stop sharing. Even at great risk to my own
family, I never stopped giving.
My message, The Maestro’s message, is simple. We must
reach out to the children that we teach, to the
patrons that we please, to other artistes that we
compose for and play music for, and most important
to the family that loves us no matter what...
I remind you that we are all God’s children and we
all have something inside that makes us special.
I ask that we each take the time to discover our
gift. Parents, take the time with your children and
with other children to help them discover their
gifts. We may wish things for our children that we
think will make us proud but what about the child?
Will the child be proud and happy do something that
we as parents want them to do rather than doing what
they have the gift and talent to do?
I remind you again that all gifts are special. I
remind you that being a pan player, a singer, a
composer, a teacher, is just as valuable and wonderful
as being a Doctor, lawyer or engineer. I remind you
that long before there were these other professions,
there was music. I remind you that long after these
professions are gone, there will be music, art,
literature, dance, painting, sculpting.
I remind you to teach the children how to listen to
their heart and their soul in order that they
discover their gifts.
I remind you to
have respect for each other regardless of our
profession. The most important thing that we can
give each other is a chance to be the best that we
can be. A chance to experience the
peace and comfort that comes from giving and
It is time to start appreciating and celebrating all
the wonderful gifted persons that we have here in
Dominica. It is time that we stop using money and
authority to determine who lives well and who lives
as a sufferer. In the final analysis, it is not who
we are or what position we hold that matters. It is
what we do with our gifts that really matters.
These are some of the messages that I tried to
deliver with my music. Sadly, it seems that only
those who were really close to me ever understood my
As I move on, I urge all of you to learn to
celebrate and elevate each other. In particular,
learn to celebrate and elevate the artistes of
Dominica. Because it means so much to me, I would
want us all to celebrate and elevate the instrument
that I loved so much — the PAN.
There is an orchestra awaiting my arrival. I will
meet pan players, calypsonians, writers and
composers from throughout the Caribbean and the
world and I will be right at home with the Creator’s
gift. I will give back to the Creator what he tried
to share with you through me for the last 58 years. This time, I know for sure that I will be
appreciated, respected and loved as I return this
gift of music and the wonder of PAN
from whence it came — the Creator.
Finally, “pan paradise” for the Maestro.
Alan Jno. Baptiste
photos courtesy Kirk