Realizing the dream

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By Ashley Berg


By Ashley Berg

The vision of a ‘visible classroom’ and a marching band that would first and foremost bring entertainment to the school during activities came from Dr. Charles Kane, Riverside Community College’s President. Yet, the visions were made into reality when Professor Gary Locke accepted the invitation to start something from nothing and put together RCC’s marching band, The Marching Tigers, along with an amazing reputation and résumé

Growing up, Locke took an immediate appreciation and passion for music since his father played piano and clarinet, and his older brother played the accordion. “I idolized (my brother), so when he played the accordion, I wanted to play it,” said Locke.

In high school, Locke played the drums in the marching band and stayed with it all four years. Locke’s inspirations came from popular music. “A giant influence while still in high school was seeing the Beatles perform all 3 times that they appeared in So Cal! I was amazed at the power and the excitement created by performing great music live,” said Locke. As a result, Locke started his own band where they opened for the pop-rock group The Turtles and jazz legend, Stan Kenton.

Professor Gary Locke obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Redlands (where he also marched for all four years and became the student director of the college pep band) and a California Teacher’s Credential from California State University at San Bernardino. Locke, now in his 33rd year teaching, started his career as the band director for the Banning Unified School District teaching instrumental music for grades K-12. In 1979, he worked in the Riverside School District as the Director of Instrumental Music at John W. North High School, where he started the “Blue Star Regiment,” a program that combined new drum and bugle corps style and traditional show style that changed the look and sound of the band at North High School since its conception in 1965.

“It was very difficult to leave the safety and security of that program, but the chance to start a program from scratch was something I couldn’t pass up,” said Locke.

And 21 years later, Locke, as well as The Marching Tigers staff, helped build not only a great reputation, but a history at RCC as well. The bands under Locke have appeared in many parades such as the prestigious Tournament of Roses Parade.

Other accomplishments for The Marching Tigers have been on television and in motion pictures.

“Working in show business influenced my approach to presenting marching band shows that would involve the audience more than the usual boring routine,” said Locke.

With these accomplishments, Locke said, “Personally, my biggest accomplishment has been raising a successful son, Paul, the most positive person I know. He is a great teacher and it’s been wonderful getting to work with him at RCC for many years, and to be able to enjoy having a successful marriage of more than 36 years! Professionally, my biggest accomplishment has been to have the RCC Band selected for the Rose Parade 3 times and to be the great exhibition group at the Bands of America Grand National Championships 4 times. Both honors that are unprecedented in the college band world!”


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