Merle Albino-de Coteau: First woman to arrange for Panorama

TT – Merle Albino-de Coteau’s wall is filled with pictures and memorabilia. She smiles while standing with the Mighty Sparrow. She received her Humming Bird medal in 1993, the same year he received his Chaconia Medal Gold for calypso.

A chart detailing the world’s great composers from the Renaissance to the modern era also hangs on the wall of her Eastern Main Road, Laventille, home. There are positive sayings for her Music Makers students, some of whom are taking part in this year’s Music Festival. These are all testimonies to a life in music.

Albino-deCoteau is the retired director of culture in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Women’s Affairs. She is also a graduate of Mc Gill University, Canada; the University of the West Indies; and the University of Trinidad and Tobago having read for a Bachelor’s, Master’s, the LTCL and ATCL diplomas in piano teaching and a Dip Ed. She has spent over 70 years (she is in her late 70s) in music. And what would have been her master’s thesis is now being turned into a book about the contribution of women to the steelband movement. Albino-de Coteau had done a paper on women in calypso for her Dip Ed and so was advised to elborate on that for her master’s thesis instead of the work she had already done on women in steelpan.

Albino-de Coteau can boast she has educated generations about music, but especially about the pan. One of her former students being the reigning Panorama arranger, Duvone Stewart, whom she described as being “humble.”

She has also adjudicated pan competitions, including Panorama, for more than 40 years, locally, regionally and internationally. Her decades of work in pan also brought her into contact with other women in pan including Jocelyn Pierre, Hazel Henley, Esther Batson (mother of Dwan Batson) and Louise McIntosh.

Read more