Over the decades, Dr. John R. Locke has helped cultivate and nurture a love of music in tens of thousands of youth through the UNCG Summer Music Camp. But on a night meant to celebrate the 30th anniversary of that UNCG institution, the spotlight instead turned on Locke, the camp’s founder and longtime director, when he was presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Summer Music Camp, what the nominators called Locke’s “life’s work and legacy,” has helped enrich the musical education of more than 50,000 students since its founding 30 years ago. It’s also proven to be a successful recruitment tool for the university and a fertile, hands-on training ground for UNCG music students, many of whom are training to become music educators or professional musicians.

Fellow faculty members Dr. Kevin Geraldi and Dr. Randy Kohlenberg were instrumental in nominating Locke for the honor, which is presented to North Carolinians with a proven record of service to the state.  They cited the influence and impact of the camp in the nomination. “Dr. Locke has been the driving force behind this endeavor since its inception, largely without recognition,” the nominators wrote. “He believes in the importance of music in the lives of our young people, and in providing an avenue for students to develop their relationship with this art.”

Locke, a professor of music and director of bands in the UNCG School of Music, Theatre and Dance, said receiving one of the state’s highest honors was a moving experience. “I had no idea what was coming,” he said. “When (UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady) handed me a large framed certificate and told the audience that it was from the office of Gov. Bev Perdue, I was in some disbelief. As it was revealed that this was the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, my own tears began to well up.

“I was simply amazed because I knew how special this was and what a great honor was being bestowed on me.”