Elva Arnaud: Statia’s Competent Trailblazer in Music and Sports

By Virgil Sams

Miss Elva Othelia Arnaud is deserving of a prominent place in Statia’s history. For decades she played intricate roles in the lives of many youths on the island in organizing sports and music.

Miss Arnaud was born into a musical family with all her brothers being musically inclined. She learned the art of playing steelpan from merely watching her brother Ishmael Arnaud aka ‘Ishie” as he was regularly seen practicing and playing. Ishie was one of the top steelpan players on the island. He formed his own band. Whenever he would take his break from his practice, Elva, as a young girl would occupy the space by taking her turn on the steelpan. This was done on a routine basis until she eventually improved in the art of playing steelpan.

After being self-taught and mastering the skills she became the first female pannist on Statia. She sought to fulfill her dream in starting a steel band.  She decided to make use of some old steelpans that were situated at the back of a building that was known as The Society.  These were steelpans from a previous band that were no longer being used.


The steelpans were in poor condition.  With a determined mindset Elva found helpful solutions that were designed to produce refurbished musical instruments.  She took it upon herself to purchase sandpapers from the then Duggins’ shop.  One by one she single handily removed the rust from the steelpans.  Throughout this process she demonstrated will power, diligence, determination and competence in achieving her goal.

She trained some young boys and one female whom she chose to be part of her first steel band. Much time was spent in practice. The band received its first invitation from Mr. Alfred Spanner to play for Ching Ding on Sunday afternoons at Spanner’s place, a place where folks would gather on Sundays to dance.

The steel band under the abled leadership of Elva increased in skills and performance. To this extent they received frequent invitations for various functions. Among the invitations were to perform at the Old Gin House on Friday evenings. Mrs. Elly Delien became the band manager and helped in making connections for the band to play aboard the Polynesia, a tourist windjammer that periodically visited the island.  Elva also organized concerts and talent shows where the performers mainly comprised of youths.


In the 1970s the then Governor of the Netherlands Antilles, Bernadito M. Leito paid a stately visit to Statia. During his visit he was entertained by Elva and her steel band. The governor became deeply impressed with the skills and performance of her band.  When he returned to Curaçao he awarded her by sending her a medal. This was the first of a series of awards that Elva would receive for her performances in music and sports. In April 2006 she was awarded with a royal medallion from Queen Beatrix. Subsequently, there was a succession of awards from island government, organizations and groups and thunderous applause for her progressive and constructive contributions.  It is well deserved that one as Miss Arnaud be given the recognition and merit as they rightly ought to have.

The natural abilities of Elva are by no means limited to music only. She was much engaged in sports as much as in music. She was among the first female cricketers on Statia. From the mid 1970s she organized cricket teams with young boys. In the afternoon after school the teams would meet for practice. And on Sundays there were formal games with players wearing their white uniforms of their respective team.


In 2007 she organized basketball teams that were wide-ranging in age categories. This was a high time when sports were seemingly at its peak on Statia.  After a series of intense discussions with the Legal Board Association, Elva was chosen to serve as president of the Basket Ball Association.

In 2010 and 2011 respectively, under her leadership she took a team of Basketball players to Suriname to participate in a basketball tournament. In suriname this team played against teams from Guyana, Curacao, Holland and Suriname.  This tournament was for players of age 35 years and over.  She took this team to Suriname with airline funds coming from the players’ pockets.

When teams were to travel to Suriname, St. Maarten and Curaçao requests were made to acquire assistance from government.  At times the requests were met with challenges.  With the amount that was given by government, Elva did what it takes to match the amount. She sought other means for acquiring the needed funds. She took to the streets without transportation of any kind and was seen approaching individuals and going from house to house in a relentless effortrequesting financial assistance to assist with the travel and to ensure that each player receive pocket change that would facilitate leisure needs while abroad. In the words of a member of her board, “she was a go getter. Others who were couched and trained by Elva shared sentiments of her reliability and dependability and her natural ability in getting things done.

Miss Arnaud has the ability to unite young people from all corners of the island from various backgrounds in friendly matches, competitions and entertainment.  She provided the resources, encouragement and flexibility to help in keeping the youths active in wholesome entertainment. She helped to build moral values, capitalizing on their sporting abilities and managing their time of practice and creating travel exposure. 


Miss Arnaud is a classic example of one who not only deposited much confidence in youths but whose natural abilities accomplished much for the good of the island. She fittingly exemplified the words of Zig Ziglar an American author, and motivational speaker, “Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.”

In working with youths, she kept them disciplined and respectful. She has helped to develop and preserve the moral decencies of all those who were part of her teams.  She is a woman of purposeful action.

Councilman Mr. Reuben Merkman, who once served the island as Director of Sports from July 1991 until September 2001 said, ” In my opnion Miss Arnaud played a pivotal role in development of music and sports on the island. She was able to organize youth teams that were very efficient and competed against the senior players on Statia.  Many of these youth players went on to form the backbone of the senior national Selection. As a coach and trainer she was a disciplinarian and no nonsense person.  She loved her players and made great sacrifices to ensure that they were ready physically and uniformly to play.  One of the first sporting pioneers on Statia.”

Let us work to preserve the legacy of Elva Arnaud in investing time in building the youths.

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