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Lockhart prepares for final performance with Utah Symphony



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SALT LAKE CITY -- This weekend marks the end of an era for the Utah Symphony. Keith Lockhart, music director for more than a decade, is leaving.

Dynamic, talented and charming; Lockhart came as a superstar pops conductor. As he prepares to move on, he aims to end his tenure on an impressive note with Leonard Bernstein's "Mass," a masterwork which includes soloists, dancers and choirs.

"It's a huge piece of theater," Lockhart said. "And I hope that everybody finds it both a joyous and a thought-provoking experience."

His energy and enthusiasm as music director of the Boston Pops have endeared him to audiences. His work ethic and vision impressed the more serious music lovers.

One of the major parts of the Lockhart legacy is the rise in profile of the orchestra. From the moment he arrived, ticket sales increased. Still, more than once and again now, he and the orchestra have faced financial difficulties. Ticket sales only cover a quarter of the symphony's needs.

"The huge economic downturns have been difficult for all organizations that rely a lot on donated income to make them run; and orchestras are wonderful things, but they are big, expensive, difficult creatures to feed," Lockhart said.

For decades, supporters have stepped up. The challenge now, says Lockhart, is convincing the technology-focused next generation.

"The only thing that we have that is different from all of these things is the passion, the love, the sweat, the visceral connection that being involved with the performing arts on a live level is," Lockhart said.

Lockhart leaves carrying with him the warmth of Utah's citizens and a feeling that he and the orchestra are better than when he arrived.

Lockhart looks forward to spending more time with his wife, a Boston attorney, and his 5-year-old son. He conducts Leonard Bernstein's "Mass" Friday and Saturday nights at Abravanel Hall.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com

Carole Mikita

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