KEITH LOCKHART IN BOSTON
– No Place He’d Rather Be
Beloved maestro Keith Lockhart celebrates his 20th season as conductor of the Boston Pops. We caught up with Keith recently to take stock of the first two decades, and to find out what lies ahead.
Some big names were bandied about for your job back in 1995 - Paul McCartney, André Previn, Quincy Jones - how did a relative youngster from Poughkeepsie score one of the most coveted jobs in music?
I'm tempted to say it was pure luck! I was very fortunate, and still feel blessed by the opportunity two decades down the road. The Pops management was looking for something very specific -- a musician who was first and foremost a conductor, trained and experienced enough to deal with the myriad styles of music and conducting challenges of the job. They also wanted someone who was comfortable with "fronting the band" -- who had the requisite personality to be a very public spokesman, both for the Boston Pops and for the art form itself. Also, they were looking to change the generational dynamic, and bring in someone who might appeal to a younger crowd of potential concert-goers. I was lucky enough to be in the right place in my career at the right time.
Like your predecessors John Williams and Arthur Fiedler, you've enlarged the scope of the Boston Pops while keeping true to the traditions of this great orchestra. How do you balance what audiences are used to with a more intrepid approach of trying new things?
We perform an incredibly wide range of material for our audiences. By doing so, we hope to continue to appeal to our traditional and established audience, as well as attract and retain new generations of fans. In some concerts, we stick to a core repertoire of classics, a diet that would look very familiar to Arthur Fiedler. In others, we explore collaborations with singer-songwriters and indie-rock bands, turntable artists...you name it. The Pops must continually reinvent itself...that's the responsibility that comes along with reflecting popular culture as well as established tradition. We are the orchestra for everyone, and we take that responsibility very seriously!
Can you talk about how the Pops is engaging local students to work with the Pops in a way that shapes future generations of musicians?
We have collaborated with Berklee singer-songwriters and arrangers to create new charts and performances with the Pops, and have also included outstanding young musical theater performers from Boston Conservatory in performances. We feature young artists who have won concerto competitions from NEC and Boston University as soloists with our orchestra. The Boston Pops is intensely involved with our renowned music schools -- many of our members teach at these institutions, and an astounding percentage received their training at schools like NEC and Boston University before being involved with the Pops.
Looking ahead, what does the Boston Pops have in store for its 2015 season?
We're welcoming Sheryl Crow in an orchestral collaboration this summer at Tanglewood, which I'm really excited about. One of the most cutting-edge innovations for the 2015 season is By POP-ular Demand, an interactive concert experience where the audience gets to choose each piece on the program, casting votes for their favorites via the internet, with results tabulated in real time! After years of reminding people to turn off their cell phones, we're actually encouraging them to use them right there in the hall!
Plus, we’re presenting "A Celtic Sojourn at Pops," on May 27-28. We have a long history with Irish music and culture, dating back 60 years to Arthur Fiedler's "Irish Night at Pops" concerts. In 1999, The Celtic Album earned the Pops and me our first Grammy nomination. This year we're teaming up with Brian O'Donovan, host of the acclaimed radio show "Celtic Sojourn," to present some of the most exciting trends in Celtic music, surrounded by the rich traditions of the Boston Pops. Carlos Nunez, a Galician piper extraordinaire who has toured with The Chieftains, will be featured and highlights Galicia as the 'hidden' Celtic nation. He is a magnetic performer! We'll also be joined by Karan Casey, formerly of Solas, and one of the foremost traditional Irish vocalists today. Don't miss it!
Congratulations Keith! Any final thoughts for our readers?
Thanks! As I enter my third decade on this podium, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.
See additional BITA profiles on Keith:
by Michael P. Quinlin