Merced County Times Newspaper
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Black History Series Begins With Beat Of A Drum

Sometimes, all it takes is a handpan to get a drum beat going.
Sometimes, all it takes is a handpan to get a drum beat going.

The Multicultural Arts Museum kicked-off its Black History Month Lecture Series by giving the stage to musician and instructor, Cheryl Lockett, last Saturday, Jan. 21.

With infectious enthusiasm, phenomenal vocals, and participation by the entire crowd, Lockett was able to share her love of music and its incredible effect on people in addition to how her culture and family are intertwined with it. Armed with a unique drum (called a handpan), a microphone, and her musical talent, she put on a lecture to remember.

After introducing herself, Lockett talked about her family, and how she was always surrounded by music growing up. Both of her parents spent a great deal of their lives focused on their passion for music, as her mother was a singer and choir director and her father, Kenneth “Kenny” Craig, was a longstanding member of the Merced Blue Notes, of which notably Roddy Jackson was also a member. Kenny was an active musician all the way into his late years, would go out and play publicly until roughly 2013, where he then switched to solely teaching others.

One of her most fond memories from her childhood would be musical gatherings that her parents would organize on weekends. At these gatherings, people would be able to freely express themselves musically in a big circle as they took turns playing, singing, and watching.

This beautiful family story led Lockett into discussing the extraordinary power of music over one’s emotion. She linked it to the profound effect that it has held over her in her life, as well as the recent introduction of musical therapy into mainstream therapy for those suffering mental and emotional conditions.

Following that, Lockett pulled out a ukulele and began explaining how it has become an invaluable tool for keeping attention and enthusiasm high as she often works with children in various schools throughout the valley. She took this time to perform the song “I Lava You” of which her students are very fond of and spoke about how this simple song from an animation worked as a vehicle for learning both music as well as story analysis.

Lockett then began speaking to people of the crowd directly, asking about their history with music, where she found out that one of the audience members was a percussionist and urged him to come up on stage. She had a very unique (UFO resembling) metal drum, called a handpan, and asked him to play it for everyone. Remarkably, he did an excellent job creating rhythms and helped Lockett in her activity with playing on the spot music/ free-styling. During such she would have crowd members come up with short bursts of lyrics and then have everyone sing together. At the beginning, everyone in the audience was very timid, but they eventually came together and ended a comfortable and extremely entertaining experience.

She finished off the lecture by taking questions and having an active discussion with the audience. It was a rich discussion that ranged from vocal instruction, to inspiration, all the way to its connection to one’s culture and spirituality. To make things more special, she was able to take the time out of her busy schedule and speak with the Times to give more details about her journey and relationship with music.

More than a performer, Lockett is a dedicated private instructor in the community, teaching voice, violin, ukulele, guitar, trumpet, in addition to the visual arts. Up until things unfortunately had to change due to the pandemic, Lockett had a studio here in Merced, but she adapted to the times and moved to holding classes over the internet. Her favorite part and most fond memories of teaching are seeing the growth of her students and, of course, seeing them perform.

“Creating is something that is near and dear to my heart,” Lockett said with great reverence. “Because when we create something—through music or visual art—were leaving history, something for the next generation, artifacts … It stays throughout time.”

For those who may be wondering, the singer’s latest album project has been in the making for roughly the last 10 years, which, like many things, was heavily impacted by the pandemic. However, now that the world is beginning to open up once again, this slow-cooking project is about to finally be served. The project is titled “Honey” and will be released as soon as she can.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that she is a woman of color and was making her way through a male-dominated field (especially as an independent artist) filled with scrutiny, she had to face many difficulties to get where she has. There were many situations where she was faced with a struggle of will and/or and an other’s overinflated ego, but she kept herself composed and moved along with her dreams.

When asked if she has a message for the community Lockett said, “I love you and, I appreciate the love and the support from the community.”

Additionally, she urges you all to “Sing! Let your sound be heard! Make sure that you are acknowledged by the atmosphere, by others… Walk into your greatness.”


For those interested in seeing Cheryl Lockett perform, she has a performance scheduled for Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Playhouse Merced, so get tickets while you still can.

If you would like to catch the next lecture in the wonderful MAC series, it will take place next Saturday, Jan. 28, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the MAC  (645 W Main St, Downtown Merced). The speaker will be Patricia Morgan, also known as “Mother Patricia,” and will be leading a discussion on the many topics surrounding the self and communication.

“Merced is incredibly lucky to have Cheryl share her amazing talent and wisdom with us,” says Colton Dennis, MAC Director. “Now I’m looking forward to Mother Patricia Morgan and Kim McMillon as they share their talent and wisdom with us during their presentations in the next two Saturdays at the MAC.”

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