Tanglewood Music Center History

The Training Grounds for the Musicians of Tomorrow

The Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship Program is the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer academy for advanced musical study. The TMC offers an intensive schedule of study and performance for emerging professional instrumentalists, singers, conductors, and composers who have completed most of their formal training in music.

Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's music director from 1924 to 1949, founded the school with the intention of creating a premier music academy where, with the resources of a great symphony orchestra at their disposal, young musicians would sharpen their skills under the tutelage of Boston Symphony Orchestra musicians and other specially invited artists.

The Berkshire Music Center opened formally on July 8, 1940, with both speeches (Koussevitzky, alluding to the war then raging in Europe, said, "If ever there was a time to speak of music, it is now in the New World") and music, including the first performance of Randall Thompson's Alleluia for unaccompanied chorus, which was written for the ceremony and arrived less than an hour before the event was to begin, but which made such an impression that it is sung every summer at the TMC's Opening Exercises. The TMC became Koussevitzky's pride and joy for the rest of his life. He assembled an extraordinary faculty in composition, operatic and choral activities, and instrumental performance; he himself taught the most gifted conductors.

Koussevitzky continued to develop the Tanglewood Music Center until 1950, a year after his retirement as the BSO's music director. Charles Munch, his successor in that position, ran the TMC from 1951 through 1962, working with Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland to shape the school's programs. In 1963, new BSO Music Director Erich Leinsdorf took over the school's reins, returning to Koussevitzky's hands-on leadership approach while restoring a renewed emphasis on contemporary music. The TMC's annual Festival of Contemporary Music, produced in association with the Fromm Music Foundation, was begun in 1963.

In 1970, three years before his appointment as BSO music director, Seiji Ozawa became head of the BSO's programs at Tanglewood, with Gunther Schuller leading the TMC and Leonard Bernstein as general advisor. Leon Fleisher served as the TMC's Artistic Director from 1985 to 1997. In 1994, with the opening of Seiji Ozawa Hall, the TMC centralized its activities on the Leonard Bernstein Campus, which also includes the Aaron Copland Library, chamber music studios, administrative offices, and the Leonard Bernstein Performers Pavilion adjacent to Ozawa Hall. In 1998, Ellen Highstein was appointed to the new position of Director of the Tanglewood Music Center, operating under the artistic supervision of Seiji Ozawa. Maestro James Levine took over as Music Director of the BSO in 2005 and has continued the tradition of hands-on involvement with the TMC, conducting both orchestral concerts and staged operas, as well as participating in masterclasses for singers, conductors, and composers.

It would be impossible to list all the distinguished musicians who have studied at the Tanglewood Music Center. According to recent estimates, 20 percent of the members of American symphony orchestras, and 30 percent of all first-chair players, studied at the TMC.

Today, alumni of the Tanglewood Music Center play a vital role in the musical life of the nation. Tanglewood and the Tanglewood Music Center, have become a fitting shrine to the memory of Serge Koussevitzky, a living embodiment of the vital, humanistic tradition that was his legacy. At the same time, the Tanglewood Music Center maintains its commitment to the future as one of the world's most important training grounds for the composers, conductors, instrumentalists, and vocalists of tomorrow.