Behind the Boston Pops: An interview with conductor Keith Lockhart

Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops opening night show, Holiday Pops, on Dec. 7, 2011. (Courtesy/Boston Pops)

Keith Lockhart conducts the Boston Pops opening night show, Holiday Pops, on Dec. 7, 2011. (Courtesy/Boston Pops)

As students scramble to study for exams and professors prepare final grades, it’s clear to see that December is finally here. At the University of Connecticut, the countdown to finals week and winter break begins.

Despite the stressful time, there are some things to look forward to in the final weeks of the fall semester. The Boston Pops is holding its annual holiday concert at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Dec. 3.

Ahead of the orchestra’s concert, we spoke with Pop’s conductor Keith Lockhart about his career experience and the role of the arts in society.

Daily Campus: What sparked your interest in music?

Keith Lockhart: My parents, especially my father, who always loved music of all sorts. Although they weren’t musicians themselves, they made sure playing an instrument was part of my education, and encouraged me to pursue music; even though it was a profession they knew nothing of.

DC: How did you become involved with the Boston Pops? Was this your dream job?

KL: The job had only been open once in the previous 65 years, so it probably wasn’t a good goal to set your sights on! Shortly after John Williams let the Pops know he was going to retire, they cast a very wide net and looked at many different conductors. We got to know each other over the next couple seasons, and it happened in 1995, after a two-year courtship.

DC: How did it feel to follow in the footsteps of John Williams?

KL: Coming into the Pops on the heels of John, and Arthur Fiedler before him, was an intimidating prospect! It feels a little better now, after two decades, but I’m still keenly aware that I followed perhaps the world’s best-known composer to the podium. It inspires me to do my best.

DC: How have you looked to put your own personal touch on the pops while also honoring and continuing their rich musical history?

KL: I really do enjoy, and feel I understand, music across a wide range of genres. I feel I have broadened the repertoire of the Pops, and thus broadened our potential audience. I also feel that it is part of my job to engage with the audience, on their terms. People feel they know me, and I’m very happy about that.

DC: What has been the most impactful experience during your time with the pops?

KL: Conducting the Pops at the Super Bowl in 2002, conducting the Opening Ceremonies at the Salt Lake Winter Games the same year, or conducting for the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace. Or maybe my first Fourth of July in Boston; that was pretty cool, too.

DC: Why compose for an orchestra instead of any other musical grouping?

KL: There are more artistic possibilities, more timbral combinations and simply a broader palette available from an orchestra than from any other musical entity. That’s why it’s so much fun to conduct one.

DC: Why is music performance important for society?

KL: The arts are both our conscience and our refuge as a society. They say things beyond what we can put into words and challenge our most basic assumptions. The capacity for self-expression, for the performer, and the capacity for self-immersion, for the audience member, are both essential.

The Boston Pops will perform their holiday concert at UConn’s Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. General admission ranges from $65-$75 depending on the section; student tickets are $45.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit jorgensen.uconn.edu.
 


Arlene Blum is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at arlene.blum@uconn.edu.

Angie DeRosa is the life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at angelina.derosa@uconn.edu.  She tweets @theangiederosa.