Celebrating Cinema

The Boston Pops and Keith Lockhart take on John Williams

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

When Keith Lockhart was hired as the Boston Pops conductor, he received a sage piece of advice from his predecessor, John Williams.

“The first time I met John, it was the night before the press conference announcing my appointment in February 1995.

“They snuck me up the service elevator at the hotel, so no one would see me. I had dinner with John and he’s not one to give advice. I was 35 coming into this job.”

Williams told Lockhart that he and another past conductor, Arthur Fiedler, put their time in, and Lockhart should preserve their work.

“He said to resist the temptation to come in and immediately try to put my thumbprint on the organization,” he said. “He said, ‘This organization has been around for 100 years without your help.’ Bite your tongue, bide your time, and it will reflect on what you want it to be.”

Lockhart took that to heart, and now he’s honoring his mentor by leading the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra in an evening of Williams’ music. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Jaws and Star Wars will be featured.

Additionally, the oboe player, Barbara LaFitte (née Siler), is a Phoenix native who attended Central High School and Arizona State University.

“This all came out of a project last year, the 2017 season, when we spent the entire spring Pops season paying tribute to John on the occasion of his 85th birthday,” he says. “We thought we’d do a celebration of somebody while they were still around.”

Williams was an active part of the celebration, as he conducted concerts. The Boston Pops also released Lights! Camera…Music! Six Decades of John Williams.

“John just passed Walt Disney for the largest number of Academy Award nominations,” Lockhart says. “It’s incredible. His music dates back to the 1950s. We had sound movies with scores since the beginning of the 1930s. John has been in seven of the nine decades.

“He’s had an amazing career. We figured this was a good way to get the orchestra back on the left coast.”

Working with Williams, who serves as laureate conductor, has been a blessing for Lockhart.

“It’s hard to imagine a better job,” he says. “It’s a really, really great gig. I play a lot of great music with one of the world’s best orchestras.

“I’m always looking for how the orchestra stays relevant and positioned in the entertainment spectrum. As with any job, some parts of it get old, but at the end of the day, I can’t imagine a better place to be making music.”