Celebrating his 20th anniversary as Boston Pops Conductor in spring 2015, Keith Lockhart is the second longest-tenured conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra since the orchestra’s founding in 1885. He took over as conductor in 1995, following John Williams’s 13-year tenure from 1980 to 1993; Mr. Williams succeeded the legendary Arthur Fiedler, who was at the helm of the orchestra for nearly 50 years. The Boston Pops, which has often been described as “America’s Orchestra,” is both the creator and lead exemplar of the Pops orchestra tradition—one that presents concerts combining favorites of classical music with a wide variety of musical genres, with performances showcasing a diverse selection of artists from the fields of classical, jazz, Broadway, pop, country, indie, and rock, among others.
During his tenure as Boston Pops Conductor, Keith Lockhart has significantly expanded the orchestra’s programming, focused on national annual touring, and participated in major media events. He has also solidified the Pops’s place in the fabric of the New England community in ways a traditional symphonic orchestra would not be able to replicate. One of Keith Lockhart’s greatest gifts springs from his passion and instinct for virtually every kind of music, inspiring an uncanny ability to lead the Boston Pops as a vital partner in countless performance situations, always finding the best way of bringing seemingly disparate worlds of music together with the very best the Boston Pops has to offer. The list of more than 250 guest artists—a virtual “who’s who” of artists and pop culture icons of the 20th and 21st centuries—includes artists/celebrities/ensembles as diverse as Aerosmith, Ben Affleck, Buzz Aldrin, Jason Alexander, Patti Austin, Big Bird, Chris Botti, Mariah Carey, Harry Connick, Jr., Elvis Costello, Béla Fleck, Warren Haynes, Sir Elton John, Toby Keith, Nathan Lane, Yo-Yo Ma, Shaquille O’Neal, Amanda Palmer, Steve Martin, Audra McDonald, Jessye Norman, James Taylor, Sting, the United States Army Field Band, and Buckwheat Zydeco, as well as such prominent political figures as Bill Clinton, Chris Christie, Ted Kennedy, and Elizabeth Warren. A complete list of major guest artists who have worked with Mr. Lockhart and the Pops is available here.
During Keith Lockhart’s twenty-year tenure, he has conducted nearly 1,700 Boston Pops concerts, a majority of which have taken place during the orchestra’s spring and Holiday seasons in Boston’s historic Symphony Hall; Mr. Lockhart has also led the Boston Pops in annual appearances at Tanglewood, the BSO’s summer home in western Massachusetts. Keith Lockhart’s work outside Symphony Hall has been diverse and multi-faceted, focusing on the orchestra’s national exposure through touring (he has led 40 national tours to 134 cities in 33 states, as well as four international tours to Japan and Korea) and participation in some of the country’s highest-profile sporting events, including appearances at Super Bowl XXXVI, the 2008 NBA Finals, and the 2013 Boston Red Sox Ring Ceremony. The annual July 4 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular—which drew a live audience of approximately 500,000 in 2014—was featured on national network television through 2013; this past summer the first-ever Boston Pops web cast brought the Independence Day celebration to 1.3 million music fans throughout the world.
Keith Lockhart has led several recordings on the RCA Victor/BMG Classics label, including two recordings that received Grammy nominations—The Celtic Album and The Latin Album. He and the Pops were a major inspiration behind the creation of BSO Classics, the in-house recording label for both the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops. The Red Sox Album (2009) and A Boston Pops Christmas: Live From Symphony Hall (2013) are two of the recent Pops albums available on BSO Classics. The Dream Lives On: A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers (BSO Classics 2010)—featuring narrators Robert De Niro, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Cherry Jones—was a Boston Pops commission premiered during the orchestra’s 125th season in 2010 and represented a collaboration between the Boston Pops and composer Peter Boyer and lyricist Lynn Ahrens.
Programming-wise, Keith Lockhart has put an increased focus on musical theater, attracting many of the leading Broadway artists of our time, including Kristen Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Kelli O’Hara, and Billy Porter. He has worked closely with hundreds of talented young musicians—Including Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, college students from the Boston Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, and high school students who have been featured in the Fidelity Young Artists Competition and BSO Concerto Competition—by coaching them and creating opportunities for them to perform with the Pops. He introduced the highly successful Pops Search talent competition inspired by the success of American Idol. Mr. Lockhart has also experimented with a wide variety of new programming, including Edgefest and JAZZfest, which featured both cutting-edge artists and rising talents—including Guster, My Morning Jacket, Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Arturo Sandoval, and Diana Krall, among others. Keith Lockhart is also highly committed to the important task of continuing to build and update the Boston Pops library of music—the best and most extensive Pops library in the world with over five thousand exclusive musical arrangements. Composers and arrangers who have worked with the pops during Mr. Lockhart’s tenure include Doug Besterman, Christopher Brubeck, Jorge Calandrelli, Tod Machover, Angela Morley, Sammy Nestico, Christopher Rouse, Don Sebesky, Michael Starobin, and Danny Troob.
Keith Lockhart has also renewed the Boston Pops’s commitment to bring the orchestra into the Boston community and to make special appearances at important civic events and ceremonies, including gubernatorial and mayoral inauguration ceremonies; the annual tree lighting event in Boston’s Public Garden; sporting events including Red Sox, Patriot, Bruins, and Celtic games; and the recent memorial service in honor of the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. He has also led free community concerts in major public spaces, including the Boston Common and Franklin Park. Mr. Lockhart and members of the Pops have also performed annually for the young patients at Children’s Hospital during the Holiday season, recently adding an appearance at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center. The Pops’s civic commitment is also notable for its ongoing connections with such prestigious colleges and universities as MIT, Tufts, Harvard, Northeastern University, Boston University, Boston College, Boston Conservatory of Music, Berklee College of Music, and New England Conservatory, many of whom are associated with the orchestra through college nights at the Pops, alumni anniversary celebrations—a tradition dating back more than a century.
Mr. Lockhart has also played a major role in the fund-raising success of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s (parent organization of the Boston Pops) most important corporate events: Presidents at Pops and A Company Christmas at Pops. Under his artistic leadership these events have raised more than $37 million for the BSO and Boston Pops, and are considered the most successful fund-raisers of their kind in the country. Fidelity Investments, a longtime supporter of the Pops and BSO, has been the main sponsor of the Boston Pops throughout Keith Lockhart’s tenure with the orchestra, which began in 1995. In addition, the corporate fund-raising events that he and the Pops present on a regular basis have helped raise millions of dollars to benefit such institutions as Boston College, The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, and the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, among others.
Perhaps the most significant key to Keith Lockhart’s success is his ability to connect passionately with audiences through his engaging programs, his commitment to speaking directly to concert-goers from the stage with fascinating insights into the music, and his inherent understanding of the importance of what sets the Pops apart from a traditional orchestra concert—an atmosphere of music-making that is both fun and entertaining for music lovers of all ages.
In addition to occupying the Julian and Eunice Cohen Boston Pops Conductor chair, Keith Lockhart currently serves as principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra in London, which he led in the June 2012 Diamond Jubilee Concert for Queen Elizabeth II, and as artistic director of the Brevard Music Center summer institute and festival in North Carolina. Prior to his appointment with the BBC, Mr. Lockhart spent eleven years as the Music Director of the Utah Symphony, which he led in the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
He has appeared as a guest conductor with virtually every major symphonic ensemble in North America, as well as several in Asia and Europe
Prior to coming to Boston, Keith Lockhart was the associate conductor of both the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops orchestras, as well as music director of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, Mr. Lockhart began his musical studies with piano lessons at the age of seven. He holds degrees from Furman University and Carnegie Mellon University, and honorary doctorates from several American universities. VISIT: www.bostonpops.org