Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

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Esther Batson - Trinidad & Tobago

"...the biggest challenge facing women in pan is the public not realizing - or not accepting them yet; although they enjoy it [pan music]. When they have their programs they do not attend... so the finance is not there. And they would attend foreigners' [performances].... They won't [attend the pan performances] because you see they can walk into a panyard and watch them practice....So that is the greatest challenge - to get the public to realize - here is an artform, and they should pay for it. So they [pan players] practice freely, until the wee hours of the morning, and get no remuneration.  -- Esther Batson

Music Educator Esther Batson was one of the stalwarts in the steelband culture of Trinidad and Tobago, and adjudicated steelband competitions internationally. Ms. Batson passed away on June 18, 2010 in Trinidad.

Responsible for the mentoring and development of several of the country’s noted steelpan talents, it was Ms. Batson’s initiative of cultural exchanges which eventually resulted in the steelband program at the University of Miami. Her daughter Dr. Dawn Batson, was the Visual and Performing Arts Chair at the Florida Memorial University (FMU), and also the Director of FMU’s steel band program.  Dr. Batson is currently an Educational and Cultural Consultant.

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Esther Batson - Music Educator

Ms. Batson was born on January 8, 1933  in St. Joseph, Trinidad and Tobago and spent much of her life educating others. She contributed to the musical development of many individual panists as well as bands such as Melodians Steel Orchestra, Angel Harps from Arima, and Potential in Malick. She was the director of the Celeste Orchestra, which included stringed instruments (violin, viola, cello) and the steelpan.

Ms. Batson earned her music education qualifications at the University of Miami and the Royal School of Music. She arranged a number of cultural exchanges between the University of Miami and Trinidad & Tobago, which resulted in the university initiating its own steelband program.

At the Arima Government Secondary School, she pioneered efforts to combine stringed instruments with the steel pan. The school was the only one where woodwind, brass, strings, voice, pan and other percussion were taught as part of the curriculum, and it was often in the winners’ row in both the vocal and instrumental classes at music festivals.

Ms. Batson’s students won trophies in the Trinidad & Tobago Music Festival in the piano classes. Many of her students have also won scholarships to universities in both North and South America.

An Interview with Merle Albino-de Coteau, Esther K. Batson and Dr. Dawn Batson

She was Musical Director at the Holy Trinity Cathedral for about six years and was influential in the restoration of its Walker pipe organ. She also served as assistant director of the St. Columba Church Steel Orchestra. This is the first orchestra that taught students to read music through the steel pan. Many of the older members went on to becoming vital assets to many of the well-known steel orchestras in Trinidad and Tobago.

Ms. Batson also served as a judge at steelband competitions in Trinidad & Tobago, St. Lucia, Grenada and New York City.

Esther Batson
Esther Batson

Esther Batson had noted that the biggest challenge facing women in the steelpan art form was getting the public to support pan women financially.

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