Remembering Toni Locke

Eleanor (Toni) Locke




It is with great sadness that we mourn the passing of Toni Locke, teacher, mentor, community organizer, researcher, story-teller, and friend of so many in the Kodály community.  From 1974-85, she served as archivist in the Holy Names Kodály Program and taught folk music.   Together with faculty and students, she oversaw the research, collection and selection of songs for HNU’s American Folk Songs for Teaching Collection, a collection of over 2,000 songs that was recognized as an archive by the Library of Congress in 1983.  This collection provided the initial source material for HNU’s online American Folk Song Collection.

Toni’s involvement in the Kodály movement began in 1969 when she spent a year in Hungary studying Kodály music education.  It was there that she met Sr. Mary Alice Hein, founder of the Holy Names Kodály Program.  Following her return from Hungary, Toni assisted Peter Erdei and Katalin Komlos in researching songs for 150 American Folk Songs to sing read and play.   In 1974, Sr. Mary Alice invited Toni to come to Holy Names College to help guide the selection of materials that was critical in adapting Kodaly’s vision for music education in American classrooms.

Toni specialized in the folklore of songs, and HNU students were inspired by her stories of the characters and settings reflected in each folk song.  She is widely known as the editor of Sail Away: 155 American Folk Songs to sing, read and play, compiled from some of her favorite folk songs in the Holy Names Collection.   The successor to 150 American Folk Songs, it was published by Boosey & Hawkes in 1981 and has provided quality materials for teaching in thousands of classrooms across the country.  Toni was also a founding member of NCAKE [Northern California Association of Kodály Educators].

After leaving Holy Names, Toni worked at San Francisco’s Maritime Museum, where she helped organize its extensive collection of sea songs and shanties.  She has been active in community organization for many decades: she was recognized as “Mother of the Year” in 2011 in her Oakland neighborhood and served as editor of her neighborhood newspaper until recently.

When Gail Needleman and I mentioned one day, many years ago, that we were thinking of planting flowers that appear in folk songs in the courtyard of the Kodály Center, Toni countered that this was a terrible idea, as we would be drawing from a primarily European folk song tradition if we did this.  It was classic Toni!  She was such a wise, committed, feisty woman—who we will dearly miss.

Anne Laskey