As a young man, Kevin Locke learned from an elderly uncle much of the language and culture of his ancestors, the Lakota Sioux of South Dakota. He later received a master's degree in education administration and completed most of the course work for a doctorate in education, but he found himself spending more and more time performing the traditional dances and flute music of his people, he said in a telephone interview Monday.
"It wasn't really so much a matter of conscious choice, but the more I tried to rebel against that and maintain my position in the regular work force, the more I felt I should focus on performing," he said.
Locke, 37, performs regularly and is set to present a free public program of Lakota music, dance and oratory tonight in Coachman Park on Clearwater's waterfront. In addition to preserving ancient songs, he composes and performs flute music.
"I incorporate the traditional arts in a setting that conveys positive awareness of the American Indian through music and dance," Locke said.
He said he became interested in the Bahai faith, which teaches the oneness of humanity, in 1979, and about the same time, "a lot of doors began opening for me. That was a point in my life when everything began to change dramatically. One of the most basic points that I try and convey is to give people a perspective of the interconnectedness of humankind."
Locke has lectured and performed throughout the United States and Canada, China, Spain, Africa and Australia. In 1990, he won one of only 13 National Heritage Fellowship Awards given by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Locke's Clearwater performance is sponsored by the Clearwater Parks and Recreation Department, the Florida Governor's Council on Indian Affairs and the Florida Endowment for the Humanities (FEH).
Susan Lockwood, FEH associate director for programs in Tampa, saw Locke perform in South Dakota.
"He is an incredible performer," she said. "He brings his traditional hoop dances, flute music and also talks to you about being a Native American and the traditions and the culture of his people. You get caught up, not only in his performance, but in the stories as well.
"He has captured music that otherwise would have been lost to history. It is a wonderful program for children. They're captivated by his beautiful costuming and his messages about different cultures living in peace. Those are wonderful messages for children."
Kevin Locke, a flute player, singer, dancer and storyteller and a member of the Lakota Sioux tribe in South Dakota will perform at 7:30 tonight in a free public concert in Clearwater's Coachman Park as part of the Florida Endowment for the Humanities' year of emphasis on American Indian culture. Locke's performance includes oratory, hoop dances and original flute music. A member of Florida's Seminole tribe will open the program with a traditional Seminole prayer. Call 272-3473 (Tampa).