Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Boston Pops Conductor Eases into Role INTERVIEW

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Boston Pops Conductor Eases into Role INTERVIEW

Article excerpt

A friendly voice pipes up on the other end of the phone in Cincinnati. It's a voice that sounds as if its owner is affable, outgoing, and a bit rueful about being suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

Keith Lockhart, associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, was recently chosen to head the 110yearold Boston Pops, and now everybody wants a piece of him: columnists ("I spent more time in the gossip columns than in the music pages," he says, halfkidding), interviewers ("To say I've done 30 interviews is a conservative estimate"), and his new employers and supporting staff, down to the caterers.

It's a tough assignment for the 30something conductor. He follows John Williams -- who had name recognition from his film scores for Steven Spielberg -- and Arthur Fiedler -- who set the nowfamiliar Pops pattern of pleasant music played in a casual, cabaret setting. Mr. Lockhart's job includes bringing his energy and audience appeal to bear on the static Pops formula.

Local coverage of his appointment has played up Lockhart's physical appearance. While mentioning his musicianship in passing, the media are clearly picking up on the new Pops conductor's personality, which the Boston Symphony has certainly not discouraged in its marketing. But Lockhart, in an interview, was magnanimous and mildly amused by his status as flavor of the month. "I think of it as using the weapons of the 'enemy' against them," he says cheerfully of the media barrage.

"I don't care what the hype is about, as long as it brings people into the hall. I'm willing to use it, but it's important to realize that the hype is ephemeral," he says. "And you need to use it while you've got the clout, the mandate, if you will, to get people there and then give them a reason for sticking around."

The focus on looks doesn't surprise Lockhart. In performance, "the conductor is the visualization for the audience," he says. …

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