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Kevin Locke revives native flute

By Margaret Damghani
Opinion Editor

Photo by Margaret Damghani
While dancing, Locked formed the different colored hoops into a ball, representing the diversity of the world.

When Kevin Locke is introduced as a performer who is trying to educate people about native culture, he always makes a correction before he begins his act. 

“I never did have the goal of carrying tribal or culturally specific information. That’s not the point.”

“What’s the point in conveying culturally specific information? You emphasize the theme of the oneness of humanity,” Locke said.
Locke appeared Nov. 12 at GPAC.

Locke got his start about 30 years ago.

He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary School Teaching at the University of North Dakota and a Master’s Degree in eductaion administration at the University of South Carolina.

Although he has visited and performed in 84 countries, often as a good will ambassador for the U.S., he says he never planned out this lifestyle.

“As a teacher, I’d always figure out ways to get kids motivated…really incorporate local culture,” Locke said.

Locke was born on the Standing Rock Reservation in Wakpala, South Dakota.

The State Arts Council in South Dakota, where Locke currently resides, began asking him to do seminars at schools across the state as he became more and more well-known.

Now, after touring as a professional flute player, dancer and entertainer for almost 20 years, Locke has added a lot to his list of accomplishment.

He was a delegate to the 1992 Earth Summit in Brazil, a speaker and performer at the 1996 United Nations Habitat II Conference.

He has also been an ambassador with the U.S. Information Service in 1980. When asked about these lofty achievements, Locke said, “It’s just all hype, you know.”

In 1990, Locke was named a “Master Traditional Artist who has contributed to the shaping of our artistic traditions and to preserving the cultural diversity of the United States” by the National Endowment for the Arts for this flute playing.

This is the most prestigious thing he has done, according to Locke.

He has been credited with reviving an almost extinct art form by recording and teaching the indigenous Northern Plains flute and was first taught the flute by a person born in 1873.

When he talks about the flute and what it means to him, it becomes clear that this is the one thing more than the dancing, traveling or entertaining that means the most to him.

“It’s not the flute playing technique passing, it’s the folk arts,” Locke said. “It’s the expression of innate nobility of the human spirit.”


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Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2007
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