Band still rocks after 30 years

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Edith Noriega | Staff Writer

May 15, 2014

Riverside City College Marching Tigers jumped into tune celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, performing for the opening ceremonies for the USA Water Polo Championships on May 19 and on a new music video with Weird Al Yankovic with a June 3rd release.

Marching band director Gary Locke and Sheila Locke, the assistant director, started the RCC Marching Band in August 1984 with only 16 members showing up for the first band camp.

“It’s hard to believe that it’s been so many years since that ‘first ever’ band camp at RCC, way back in August of 1984 when only 16 potential members showed up,” Locke said. “But here we are, about to open our thirtieth band camp, this time with over 200 members expected, and it’s still just as exciting.”

When Locke was first hired there was nothing. No members, no instruments, no uniforms, no band room, nothing to start the band, but shear will power. Locke was in charge of creating something that would be the “visible classroom” for RCC, representing the college in a way that no other club or organization or sports team could.

Dr. Kane, the RCC president at the time, gave the idea of starting the band at RCC to Locke.

“If the band could provide energy and entertainment at athletic events and create a positive feeling toward RCC via their performances and appearances, it would help everyone, all departments, “Dr. Kane said.

“The first five years were difficult,” Locke said. “You have to remember that this was before the Internet. I didn’t email and or text potential students. All of the recruiting was done through snail mail and endless phone calls, trying to drum up business for a group that had just been born, no history, no reputation to stand on.”

After a lot of work, things started to fall into place. The RCC band traveled to Europe, Canada and Japan and continued to work hard to improve, appearing at ribbon-cuttings, groundbreakings, grand openings, political rallies and corporate functions.

“We did half-time shows for the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders (yes that was a long time ago) and the L.A. Rams, played for opening days for the California Angels and at Dodgers Stadium,” Locke said.

RCC’s Marching Tigers have since grown into one of the most well-known and talented college marching bands in the world and were once formerly a competitive marching band, but eventually moved on to bigger projects after placing an unprecedented seven times as the guest exhibition group at the Bands of America Grand National Championships.

The Marching Tigers have also been known as musical ambassadors to the world performing in places like: Switzerland in 1985 at the “Fetes de Genève” Parade in Geneva, Queen Victoria Days Parade in Canada in 1986, Moomba Festivale Parade in Melbourne Australia in 1992, a total of seven times at the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Part of celebrating its years of excellence the Marching Tigers have been invited to the New Year’s Day Parade in Paris, on Jan. 1, 2016.

Besides being a great educational adventure, this event will be historic. It’s going to be the first time in this famous city’s history that they are going to allow the parade to take place on the historic Champs Elysees, the worlds most famous boulevard with several French monuments also on the street, including the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde.

Over the span of his 30-year career the Inland Empire Magazine selected Mr. Locke as one of the “top 25 people of the past 25 years” in its May 2001 special anniversary issue.

He has been a Vice President of the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association and is in demand as a clinician, adjudicator and guest conductor throughout the Southwest.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Redlands and a California Teachers Credential from California State University at San Bernardino.

He’s since been inducted into the La Serna High School Hall of Fame, signifying his position as being one of the most famous graduates of that Whittier, California school and recently, on April 2010 the Riverside Community College District presented him with the “Faculty for Teaching Excellence”.

“What the band provides to its members is a lot more than right notes and wrong notes, it teaches them how to be,” Locke said. “We’re working together towards a common goal and they are learning the most important things: discipline, commitment and follow-through.”