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Koussevitzky as Educator: Establishing the Tanglewood Music Center

BSO Music Director Serge Koussevitzky had long dreamed of establishing a music school. The donation of the Tanglewood estate to the BSO in 1937 paved the way for the creation of an “academy for living and working in music," meant to supplement a conservatory education with the experience of working musicians.

Serge Koussevitzky dressed in a white suit stands in front of a wall with a view of the Stockbridge Bowl lake behind him

Serge Koussevitzky at his summer home, Seranak, near the Tanglewood grounds.

Photograph by Egone

Brochure advertising the first term of the Berkshire Music Center in 1940
Brochure advertising the inaugural term of the Tanglewood Music Center (then called the Berkshire Music Center) The brochure promised “An opportunity for a summer of living and working in music.” Students were coached by faculty such as Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith, Herbert Graf, Olin Downes, and various BSO members, in addition to sitting in on BSO rehearsals and performances during the concurrent Berkshire Music Festival.

A Musical Tradition: Thompson's Alleluia

First page of manuscript score for Randall Thompson's work Alleluia
Alleluia by Randall Thompson, a work for unaccompanied chorus, was commissioned by the BSO for the Tanglewood Music Center’s 1940 opening exercises. The piece made such an impression that it has remained a part of the opening exercises ever since. Each year’s class of students join voices together to usher in a new season of musical study and activity. Gift of Randall Thompson, 1941.

Listen: 1940 Performance of Randall Thompson's Alleluia - Excerpt

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When a Dream Comes True

In his speech to the first class of student musicians, Koussevitzky describes how his dream became reality. Because English was not his first language, Koussevitzky carefully marked in stress and punctuation indications on his copy of the speech.

Koussevitzky Speech

Photocopy courtesy of the Library of Congress

Listen: Koussevitzky Opening Exercises Speech 1940 - Excerpt

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Excerpt of TMC student Leonard Bernstein conducting Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade in 1940

Listen: 1940-07-26 Bernstein conducts the TMCO in Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade - excerpt

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Tanglewood on Parade: Raising Funds for the War Effort

Program flyer for the first Tanglewood on Parade, to support British Allies
Program flyer for the first Tanglewood on Parade, to support British Allies. Although the U.S. would not officially enter World War II until 1941, Koussevitzky still wished to support Allied efforts overseas during the summer of 1940. The program featured performances by multiple departments of the Tanglewood Music Center, as well as an auction and lawn party, necessitating a much earlier start time to accommodate the extended length. After the war, the Tanglewood on Parade benefit raised funds to support the activities of the music center.

A Theatre-Concert Hall

Color postcard depicting the original design of the Theatre-Concert Hall at Tanglewood
Postcard of the Theatre-Concert Hall at Tanglewood. The need for a theater capable of accommodating opera productions was obvious during the Tanglewood Music Center’s first season, when Handel’s Acis and Galetea was performed outdoors. Present at that performance was Mrs. Louis Curtis Bok, founder of the Curtis Institute, who pledged $10,000 toward construction of the Theatre-Concert Hall. The 1,200-seat structure, designed by Eliel Saarinen and his son Eero, opened on July 13, 1941. Photograph by E. J. Curtis