Keith Lockhart Isn’t Worried About the Future of Boston’s July 4th Celebration

'Long after I’m not there, it will still be where America spends the Fourth of July.'

Keith Lockhart

Photo by Stu Rosner via Boston Pops

When the Boston Globe published its recent piece on David Mugar, the outgoing executive producer behind Boston’s Fourth of July celebration, fans were understandably worried as the article suggested a possible murky future for the annual event.

Mugar told the Globe that he had a lot of trouble courting corporate sponsors for this year’s show, and the piece suggested that the festivities may be in jeopardy of not returning to the Esplanade.

While the future is still unclear for the Fireworks Spectacular, Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart isn’t worried about what’s in store for the annual event.

“It will go on,” Lockhart says. “When the right discussions are had, I think sponsors will be readily there. It’s arguably the greatest, biggest event on Boston’s calendar. I’m really optimistic for the future of the thing moving on.”

The Pops maestro, who’s led the show every year for over two decades, believes that festivities have become a popular tradition for, not just Boston, but the entire country. Lockhart calls the event “quintessentially American,” which is why it draws in people from across the nation, as well as Americana fans from other countries.

This year’s July 4th celebration is poised to be one of the biggest and best yet as CBS will once again be broadcasting the event on national television, following a three-year hiatus. The network is also fronting the bill for the high-profile musical acts, which includes Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, and Little Big Town.

Since so many stars will be appearing, the show will be extended to two hours this time around. Lockhart says that people can expect to hear fan-favorite, traditional tunes like the “1812 Overture,” in addition to special tributes to all of the great pop stars who’ve died this year.

“With the help of Demi, Nick, and Little Big Town, we’re doing some tributes to some of the great artists in pop music who have passed over this last year, including David Bowie, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, and Prince,” Lockhart says. “We look to the future, but we remember what’s going on and who’s left us.”

After helming the stage for over 20 years, Lockhart has trouble picking his favorite moments since he’s accrued so many great memories.

“Steven Tyler yowling in my ear up on the podium with me was kind of cool,” he says. “Looking out on the Esplanade with everybody with light sticks while Don McLean sang “Vincent (Starry Starry Night)” was particularly beautiful.”

Another memorable moment was the first show after the events of September 11, 2001, which was an emotional experience. Lockhart believes that the mood of the celebration varies from year to year as it changes with people’s needs and whatever the nation happens to be going through at the time.

Lockhart can’t image the show not going on because so many people have great memories of Boston’s July 4th celebration and consider the event to be the epitome of American culture.

“There are millions of people who really think of it as America’s birthday party,” Lockhart says. “Long after I’m not there, it will still be where America spends the Fourth of July.”