Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

September 26, 2013

In tempo with Keith Lockhart

Famed conductor shares high notes of career

By Judy Wakefield

---- — Popular Boston Symphony Orchestra conductor Keith Lockhart returns to Andover this weekend to lead an ensemble of musicians in a fundraiser for Northern Essex Community College’s Endowment Fund.

On the heels of his visit, Lockhart took time out to answer a few questions for The Townsman.

Here’s what he had to say about leading the famed orchestra for almost 20 years and why his community appearances, like his visit to Andover, are so important:

Q: You are a fan favorite in Andover. It seems you take your community appearances very seriously. Why?

A: “The Boston Pops plays for a wide and diverse audience base. Although we are `America’s orchestra,’ our hometown crowd is right here in New England. It’s a thrill to get to meet all the people who love the Pops, especially in more intimate settings than we are usually involved in.”

Q: You have been conducting the Pops since 1995. How do you stay motivated?

A: “After 1,500-plus concerts, it’s easy to say, `Well, I’ve done that before.’ What remains new, though, is the audience — we are always playing for new people, music lovers who have never heard the Pops, and that is an ongoing motivation to reach out to them. Ask any performer who has been in, say, `The Phantom of the Opera’ for 20 years. The excitement resides in the audience you’re performing for, and the people you’ve never had the chance to reach.”

Q: You’ve recorded several albums and do a lot of appearances, where you always welcome questions from the audience. Why is your non-conducting personality so important?

A: “I’ve actually conducted 12 albums with the Pops ... and the 13th is due out this fall. The Pops is all about great music, but it is also all about personality. Too often, people think of the classical music world as one that doesn’t reach out to grab the listener’s attention and heart. The wonderful platform of the Boston Pops gives me the opportunity to do that.”

Q: We’ve got award-winning show choirs at Andover High School. What advice do you give musical performers?

A: “Make sure you work very hard to continue to love what you do. That may seem like obvious advice, but, all too often, music students get caught up in the incredible difficulty of the road ahead. Music is not something you choose for easy career advancement; it’s not even something a rational person would choose as a career option. Music is about something you absolutely need to express, whether it becomes your life’s work or merely your life’s passion. Never forget that it is a privilege to perform for others.”

What about your personal life? Is life all music for you?

A: “All of the available `extra’ time is taken up by my family, my wife and three sons, ages 10, 3 and 1 1/2. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”