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The Tanglewood Music Center

History of the TMC

Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's music director from 1924 to 1949, founded the Tanglewood Music Center in 1940. His vision was to create a premier music academy where the rising generation of great musicians could access the resources of a great symphony orchestra, honing their skills under the mentorship of BSO musicians and other luminaries in the field.

The Berkshire Music Center opened formally on July 8, 1940. The opening ceremony included the first performance of Randall Thompson's Alleluia for unaccompanied chorus (sung every summer since at the TMC's Opening Exercises). 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". TMC would become his pride and joy for the rest of his life. He assembled an extraordinary faculty in operatic and choral activities, instrumental performance, and composition, including Head of Faculty Aaron Copland. He himself taught the most gifted conductors, including Leonard Bernstein, a student at Tanglewood from 1940-42.

"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, 1940 Opening Exercises)

Koussevitzky continued to develop the Tanglewood Music Center through 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 Bernstein and Copland to shape the school's programs, and in 1960 welcoming Seiji Ozawa as a conducting student. In 1963, new BSO Music Director Erich Leinsdorf took over the school's reins, renewing emphasis on contemporary music at the start of this tenure. 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, part of the so-called troika, with Gunther Schuller leading the TMC and Leonard Bernstein as general advisor. In 1985, Leon Fleisher became the TMC's Artistic Director, serving in that role until 1997. In 1994, with the opening of Seiji Ozawa Hall, the TMC centralized its activities on the Leonard Bernstein Campus, home to 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 newly-created position of Director of the Tanglewood Music Center, under the artistic supervision of Seiji Ozawa.

It would be impossible to list all the distinguished musicians who have studied at the Tanglewood Music Center. According to a 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 composers, conductors, instrumentalists, and vocalists.

Read historical essays written in honor of the 75th anniversary of the TMC in 2015:

The TMC Vocal Program at 75 - Voices Constant Yet Changing by Richard Dyer

The TMCO at 75 - An Annual Ritual of Renewal by Michael Nock

75 Years of New Music at the Tanglewood Music Center by Robert Kirzinger

76 Years of Chamber Music at Tanglewood by Pamela Feo