By Anne Laskey and Maree Hennessy
Eleanor G. Locke
It is with fondness and gratitude that we think of Toni Locke, teacher, mentor, community organizer, researcher, story-teller, and friend of so many in the Kodály community. Toni passed away in February, 2015 at age 97.
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.
Recently, the royalties from this publication have been donated from Toni’s estate to the Kodály Center at Holy Names University. This will help fund the upkeep of the collection that Toni and Sr. Mary Alice initiated.
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 had 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. Toni was also a founding member of NCAKE [Northern California Association of Kodály Educators].