Q+A with Brevard Music Center Artistic Director: Keith Lockhart

Published January 30th, 2020

Each summer at Brevard, 500 musicians from across the globe perform alongside some of the most celebrated names in music. Join us in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina for a transformative summer experience.

Today, we are talking with Keith Lockhart, Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops, Chief Guest Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra, and the Artistic Director at the Brevard Music Center Summer Institute & Festival, to see what makes Brevard so unique...

What would you tell a student considering applying for Brevard? Why should they spend the summer in the mountains?

There are almost as many reasons for attending Brevard as there are students…every musician has their own unique story and path, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. I will say this: there are many great summer programs with excellent performance opportunities and outstanding faculty, but Brevard is set apart by a nurturing community and a transformative experience. At Brevard, everyone…students, faculty, staff…lives and dines together. We support each other, challenge each other, and make each other better. And, when I talk to students about their experiences here, there is one common thread…transformation. Brevard changes you…your relationship to your instrument, your understanding of what is possible, your goals, your feelings about the art form.

The grounds of Brevard are absolutely gorgeous. How do you think this plays into the experience for musicians?

Musicians have always drawn inspiration from the beauty of the world around us. At Brevard, one is always reminded of, to quote Bernstein, the “search for truth through beauty” that is at the heart of great music-making. Brevard is a community where one can easily shut out the noise and distractions of modern life, and focus on the great and ongoing task of being an extraordinary musician.


What is your favorite part about conducting all the orchestras at Brevard? Can you share a memorable "backstage story"?

My favorite part in all my experiences with the orchestras at Brevard is the palpable feeling of victory and accomplishment at the end of a great concert. With the high school orchestra, it could be the smiles (and tears) of young musicians who have just climbed the mountain of some big piece of standard repertoire for the very first time. With our flagship orchestra, it is the feeling that comes from all of us, coming together to present some of the greatest treasures (and greatest challenges) of the symphonic repertoire at the very highest level. It never gets old! As to backstage stories…well, I’m kind of superstitious about that…what happens backstage, stays backstage! Let’s just say anything can happen in live performance situations!

As a conductor, do you have any audition tips for prospective applicants?

Don’t try to dazzle us. Be your own, best self. Show us your solid fundamentals…incisive rhythm, careful intonation, and sound musical decision-making are the most impressive things one can convey in the context of an audition.

You've conducted all over the world. What are some of your favorite concert memories and stars you've worked with?

I’ve had the honor of performing at some very high-profile events! Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee concert was one of them: sharing the stage with Lang Lang, Renee Fleming, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Stevie Wonder. Standing on the field at the end of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics with Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams, and Sting. Performing at the Super Bowl. I spent my 60th birthday last November conducting the Czech Philharmonic in Dvorak and Janacek, on the stage where Dvorak premiered his work, and with an orchestra I have truly fallen in love with. But, honestly, some of my most prized memories come from Brevard. A Mahler 2 last year that was truly extraordinary. A Bernstein Mass during the centennial celebration that was as great as I could have hoped for it to be. And, even more importantly, I look forward to the concert memories still waiting to be made there!


More about Brevard!

High School Division: Ages 14-18

College & Post-College Division: Ages 18-29

2020 Dates:

Summer Institute: June through early August

Jazz Institute: June 8-19

Adult Guitar Workshop: June 8-13

Blue Ridge Banjo Camp: August 19-23


Deadline extended to February 14, 2020 (Previously February 10th) – Orchestral Studies, Piano, and Composition

March 10, 2020 – Classical Guitar, Jazz Institute, and High School Voice

If you want to learn more about Brevard, visit their Acceptd landing page or apply today!

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