"A conductor is a lot like a football coach," explains Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops.
Football comes up a lot in the conversation, probably because his beloved New England Patriots are days away from playing in the Super Bowl but also because of what he sees as obvious similarities.
"I'm the person who calls the plays. I help keep a solid beat and get people 75 feet apart to be synchronized. You can say, 'Who needs a conductor?' But you can also say, 'Who needs a football coach?' until you see the players running in 11 different directions."
Lockhart is very comfortable explaining the complexities of his job to people whose only familiarity with orchestras may be the occasional Bugs Bunny cartoon and a recurring character on Seinfeld.
"You have to know a lot about every instrument. You spend a lot of time talking to the players, getting to know their specifics. I consider the conductor to be the go-between for the composer and the orchestra."
In other words, a conductor does a lot more than point a funny stick at musicians.
Lockhart got his start as a pianist at 7 years old. It was a few years later, at the age of 11, when he played clarinet for the school orchestra that he gained a real love for making music with a larger ensemble.
He holds an undergraduate degree in playing piano and considers himself at an equal level with the clarinet but has working knowledge of just about every instrument in the orchestra.
However, he brings up football again, in order to not overstate his tuba-playing ability.
"Just because a football coach knows what a quarterback should be doing doesn't mean he can throw the ball 50 yards or run 40 yards in four and a half seconds."