PITTSFIELD -- The Boston Symphony Orchestra is solidifying its long-term commitment to Tanglewood by accelerating plans to invest $30 million in building and grounds upgrades at its summer home over the next seven to eight years.
"Maintaining and building Tanglewood's position as the pre-eminent summer festival in the United States is something I think about every day in an ever-more-challenging economy and in a more fractured, more cluttered marketplace," said BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe.
In an address to the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce's monthly Good News breakfast on Wednesday, Volpe outlined the organization's intentions to improve its 76-year-old facility "in order to enhance the experience of patrons."
In a wide-ranging, anecdote-laced talk that drew frequent and hearty laughter from the audience of about 250 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the orchestra's top executive noted that while every major city has a concert hall, "what makes the Boston Symphony unique is Tanglewood."
"There are buildings at Tanglewood that are pre-Civil War," he said, referring to the $30 million in upgrades.
He also listed "securing our position in the digital age for the dissemination of music electronically" as a high priority.
Emphasizing the importance of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO's summer institute for about 150 advanced young professionals, Volpe described it as part of the organization's "core mission," and said it costs $3 million to $4 million to operate each year.
He also stressed the need to diversify audiences and to attract younger age groups by investing in research and development -- "something that institutions that are too close to the edge financially don't do enough of."
Volpe cited a study by Williams College economics professor Steven C. Sheppard a few years ago that listed the BSO's overall economic impact in Massachusetts at more than $200 million, with as much as $70 million of that sum coming specifically from Tanglewood.
Observing that Tanglewood's 75th anniversary last summer attracted the site's third-largest audience ever, Volpe acknowledged that "it will be hard to match that, but the early indications are very, very positive."
During the 2012 season, 375,776 ticket-holders streamed through the gates.
"We're very pleased," Volpe added. "Even before the BSO arrives for our core [BSO] residency, we have the Grateful Dead tribute -- without Jerry Garcia obviously, Joan Baez, Jackson Browne, Melissa Etheridge. I think we have 40,000 to 50,000 people coming."
The BSO's unusually extensive preseason lineup of popular artists and other attractions extends from June 21 through July 4.
Volpe indicated that an announcement would be forthcoming about a Popular Artists event for Labor Day weekend.
"We've had 100 proposals out to various artists," he said. "It's one of the trickiest weekends because everyone is booking."
Volpe also referenced incoming Music Director Andris Nelsons' appearance at Tanglewood to lead Verdi's Requiem on July 27. Nelsons' wife, Kristine Opolais -- "one of the glamour sopranos of her generation" who has signed a six-year contract with the Metropolitan Opera -- will also appear.
He described Nelsons as "one of the hottest conductors in Europe, though not quite as well-known in North America."
Nelsons will be BSO music director-designate in 2013-14 before assuming the position formally during the 2014-15 season.
"We really feel that with a new music director and with all this energy and continued brand-building, we're at a threshold period," Volpe said. "I think we are poised to make a difference and to provide cultural leadership in the Berkshires and beyond."
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto