Milton ‘Wire’ Austin
By Sue-Ann Wayow
MILTON “Wire” Austin, an icon in the steelpan arena has died.
Austin was the arranger and leader of the San Fernando’s NLCB Fonclaire Steel Orchestra. He passed away on Sunday morning at age 79.
Austin was one of the founding members of the orchestra, having joined 56 years ago and was manager and captain for 54 of those years.
Fonclaire’s Managing Director Darren Sheppard told AZPNews.com that Austin was like a father to him since he joined the orchestra at age seven.
Sheppard said, “I was like his son. That in itself came with its challenges. There was a high expectation of me but one thing. He will always tell you how he feels. He was genuine, whether you like it or not, he will tell you the truth.”
He was not only a father figure to Sheppard but he was also a dedicated father who never put his professional life before his personal commitments.
Austin was the father of two sons who were mentally and physically challenged. They passed on before him, which was one of Austin’s wishes.
Sheppard said, “Wire would do everything for his children. We would be on stage, final night, music going sweet and he heard something happen to one of his children, he gone. He would do everything for them. And his wish was that they live their full lives but he did not want to die before them because he wanted to take care of them for their entire lives.”
Another of Austin’s wish was to die at home Sheppard said which he also got. He passed away at his Pleasantville home after suffering with a lung disorder for some years.
Minister of Tourism Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell expressed condolences on his passing.
Mitchell said: “Wire Austin has contributed significantly to our culture and has served us well. His musical arrangements will remain with us. I thank him for his role in creating the proud and formidable Fonclaire Steel Band and for the sweet melodies he arranged over the past decades. San Fernando and Trinidad and Tobago will forever remain eternally grateful for his contribution.”
Other steel orchestras posted condolences on Fonclaire’s Facebook page including BP Renegades Steel Orchestra and Trinidad All Stars.
Fonclaire stated that funeral announcements will be made soon but Sheppard said it will be before Christmas Day.