Tanglewood Music Center History
A transformative experience
"The Berkshire Music Center presents a unique opportunity for a summer of living and working in music. The Music Center is designed to lay special emphasis upon those aspects of musical education concerned with collective performance. It will thus supplement rather than duplicate the training available in the established schools of music...We have chosen a practical method, so that the students may draw from us some of the essence of the knowledge and experience we have acquired in our years of work."
Serge Koussevitzky (BSO Music Director 1924-1948)
1940 Opening Exercises
Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's music director from 1924 to 1949, founded the TMC 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 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, sung every summer at the TMC's Opening Exercises. (The inaugural year included students Leonard Bernstein and Lukas Foss, and Aaron Copland as Head of the Faculty.) 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 with 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, under the artistic supervision of Seiji Ozawa. Maestro James Levine took over as Music Director of the BSO in 2005, conducting both orchestral concerts and staged operas, and leading masterclasses for singers, conductors, and composers with the TMC.
It would be impossible to list all the distinguished musicians who have studied at the Tanglewood Music Center. According to recent study made by the BSO, nearly 20% of the members of major American symphony orchestras, and nearly 25% percent of all first-chair players, studied at the TMC. Alumni of the Tanglewood Music Center play a vital role in the musical life of the nation as performers and composers. 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 to of thier art.
Read historical essays written in honor of the 75th anniversary of the TMC in 2015:
"Tanglewood is not a school, in the strict sense. It does not offer courses, degrees, credits…no student is striving for grades. The goals are much higher than that. Tanglewood is a musical universe where a young musician is subjected to gravitational pulls, magnetic fields, electrical impulses, varying atmospheres, and changing topography. What he emerges with, after it is all over, is not a report card, or the ability to play faster than the next fellow. What Tanglewood hopes-and what Koussevitzky desired-was that the student emerge from this model universe with a conception of his own true orbit; that the young planet acquire its direction, its sense of relationship to its fellow-planets, and its particular function in the larger universe outside."
Leonard Bernstein (TMC '40, '41, & '42)
1951 Opening Exercises