Keith Lockhart '81
Keith Lockhart was a shy, skinny kid of 17 from upstate New York when he came to Furman in the fall of 1977. "It was a strange new world," he said. "I
was confident about some things—
about my musical abilities, at least—
but I was still socially finding my way. That's why Furman's nurturing
environment meant so much to me."
Today that skinny kid is confident about his musical
as the vaunted conductor of the Boston Pops and music
director of the Brevard Music Center, he needs to be. And he credits
his experiences and the Furman faculty for helping him find his life's
direction. The professors at Furman poured themselves out to their students in a way that's impossible at a larger venue. "I
made the decision to go into conducting while I was at Furman, and it's
those professors who pushed me to explore those opportunities," he said.
A semester in Vienna during his junior year sealed the deal. "I
had never been outside the country, unless you count the Canadian side
of the Niagara Falls, spending that semester in Europe was an
unbelievable experience," Lockhart said. "There are things that I learned and that were
set in motion at that time in that still serve me well."
While the conservatory-like atmosphere of Furman's
music department prepared him for the musical challenges ahead, the
music and German major equally credits the institution's liberal arts
background, as well. " From English to computer science, I feasted as much as I could," he says. "The results of that was a broad-based way of looking at the world that has served me very well for 25 years since."
Lockhart's enthusiasm for the liberal arts was also reinforced by Charlotte Smith, the much-feared head of theory and analysis who taught him to look at music in a whole new way. "Budding
musicians want to play or sing, and spend so much time developing those
skills that it keeps them from thinking about music in any other way," he says. "But
Charlotte taught me actually to think about music, to dig into it. I
needed to spend all those hours in the practice room because I now
instruct other people to do that. But the most important thing is to
have an intellectually rigorous plan and passion for how you approach
music. That's a direct result of the time spent with Charlotte."
Keith Lockhart, Boston Pops give advice to Furman students.