Interview with Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart

Kicking off the holiday season here at UConn, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts hosted its annual performance by the world-famous Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Keith Lockhart.  (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

Kicking off the holiday season here at UConn, the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts hosted its annual performance by the world-famous Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Keith Lockhart.  (Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

What is it like getting up there in Symphony Hall and conducting in front of all of those people? Do you still love it after doing it for so many years?

What performers love to do, above anything else, is perform.  Getting to be responsible for a great performance, an outpouring of joy and expression, with one of the world's great collections of artists, in one of the world's great temples of music is about as cool as it gets in my world.  I still enjoy it, and I still need it.

What's the coolest place you have been to while traveling with the Pops?

Probably Japan (four times with the Pops). Although at midfield in the Super Dome at the Super Bowl in 2002 wasn't bad, either!

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

It simply felt like what I had to do.  Now that I look back on a 35-year career in music, I'm not sure I can imagine my life unfolding any other way.  

What have been your favorite experiences in your twenty-two years with the Boston Pops?

Honestly, the Holiday concerts we have performed in Boston and around the country are probably some of my favorite experiences.  There's nothing better than performing for a crowd that's eager to celebrate.  

What is the relationship like between you and the other members of the Boston Pops Orchestra?

Well, part of my answer is contained in your question.  I am not a member of the Boston Pops Orchestra.  The musicians who work with the Pops number in the hundreds, and I've known some of them for nearly 30 years.  Some of them have become close personal friends over that time, and I feel a responsibility for the welfare of each and every one of them.  But there is a necessary distance in any leadership role...just as Bill Belichick isn't a "member" of the Patriots.

As a part of such an old, well-respected organization, how do you remain cognizant of the Pops’ traditions while still injecting your own spirit?

After nearly a quarter century, my spirit is wound into the fabric of what we do during the holidays.  The Pops exists and flourishes 130 years after its founding because we've never forgotten our traditions...we have never succumbed to the "flavor of the month" mentality that affects so many entertainments.  I'm not about to forget that now, and it influences every decision I make for the Pops.

Apart from the obvious, is there anything that you think makes the Boston Pops Holiday Show stand out from the other performances during the year.

The families in attendance, and our responsibility to be part of many people's understanding and celebration of this most wonderful time of the year.

Do you have any advice that you would offer to music students at UConn or anyone interested in a career in the arts?

Do what you love, and follow your own star.  Every profession needs passionate advocates.  But, if you can imagine doing anything else besides being a professional musician...do that instead.  It's a difficult road, and the chances of success are remote enough that they should scare off anyone who harbors even a little bit of ambivalence.


Evan Burns is campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at evan.burns@uconn.edu.