Attendance at Tanglewood drops 9 percent from 2012


LENOX -- Although Tanglewood's just-ended season saw attendance down by about 9 percent compared to last summer's 75th anniversary celebration, the Boston Symphony and additional professional and student classical presentations gained more than 11 percent, orchestra executives reported over the weekend.

The tally of 318,439 includes concerts through Aug. 30, subject to slight upward revision when totals for the final two attractions are released.

Tanglewood patronage set a high-water mark in 1998 with 386,870 attending; second-place, in 1997, was 376,533. Last summer's total was 375,776.

This summer's decline reflected a nearly 14-percent drop in box-office totals for Popular Artists concerts.

Boston Symphony Managing Director Mark Volpe cited the absence of James Taylor as a major factor -- he drew 54,385 listeners for his three performances over last year's July 4 holiday.

At this point, Taylor is booked for a July 4, 2014 appearance at Tanglewood, his team confirmed on Sunday. Taylor has taken this year off from touring.

Other factors behind this summer's box-office decline, as detailed by BSO officials, included a 50 percent reduction in complimentary ticket distribution "following a special effort to offer more complimentary tickets during the 75th anniversary in 2012. It also represents an effort to bring the comps program back in line with the industry standard."

The BSO's summer home also implemented a new electronic ticket-scanning system "that better tracks the usage of complimentary tickets and Tanglewood staff and orchestra passes," the announcement stated. "Before this year, comp ticket usage was calculated by way of random concert samplings throughout the season."

"This has probably been the toughest year of my 16-year tenure, financially," said Volpe, referring to the entire Sept. 1, 2012, to Aug. 31, 2013 orchestra contract season in Boston and the Berkshires.

"This year, we're not going to have a surplus. This has been a very challenging year," he pointed out, in contrast to 2011-12, when the organization notched $288,000 in black ink, based on nearly $74 million in total operating expenses.

"Tanglewood is obviously the most expensive thing we do," Volpe added, noting the cost of transporting players and staff while maintaining and improving the 525-acre, 80-structure property. "But we're basically hitting our revenue targets," he said.

Overall, the summer venue operates in the red each year, Volpe noted, citing the cost of physical-plant upgrades such as recently improved lighting, "but absolutely, Tanglewood is what makes the Boston Symphony unique. There's only one Tanglewood." Fundraising continues for future projects -- "our plan is still, over time, to invest $30 million in the physical plant ... averaging $2 million to $3 million-plus annually."

Acknowledging that "we were blessed with terrific weather," Volpe expressed satisfaction with gains in classical-concert attendance during this summer's 11-week Tanglewood season.

In a conversation during the orchestra's final Tanglewood weekend, he explained that the BSO, Inc.'s potential loss of $1 million or more for the just-concluded fiscal year was attributed primarily to the cancellation of four scheduled Symphony Hall performances because of the Boston Marathon bombings last April 15 and a severe winter storm in February.

"That's a big number," he observed, while anticipating a resurgence for the fall-winter season ahead based on gains in advance-ticket sales.

While preserving the eight-week, core BSO season of classical programming at Tanglewood -- augmented by the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra of advanced young musicians, special events and recitals by soloists and chamber groups in Ozawa Hall-- Volpe predicted three or four Boston Pops performances would be scheduled for next summer.

In addition, Popular Artists bookings are likely for the final two weekends of June 2014 as well as Labor Day weekend.

Besides Taylor, last summer's popular artists performers included Diana Krall, Train and Evanescence. The Popular Artists series attracted 61,407 listeners this summer compared to a 2012 season total of 71,173.

Volpe foresees the occasional return of full orchestra-to-film events such as the BSO's July 13th "West Side Story" screening, since only a few movies have been adapted for such presentations.

As for the future of John Williams's participation in the annual Film Night (which he shared with conductor David Newman last month), "he very much wants to stay connected in terms of active participation as well as physical presence, so I think he'll have an ongoing role," said Volpe. Williams is 81.

"We hope John's here forever," Volpe quipped. "I never thought of John as mortal, but I guess he might be."

To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto

Top concerts ...

Here are top attendance totals for the 2013 Tanglewood season:

n 17,316 -- Jackson Browne, July 4

n 16,154 -- Film Night (John Williams, David Newman, Audra McDonald), Aug. 24.

n 12,398 -- Boston Symphony (Yo-Yo Ma, Charles Dutoit) Aug. 4.

n 12,285 -- Tanglewood on Parade, Aug. 6.

n 11,077 -- BSO "West Side Story" screening, July 13.

n 9,854 -- BSO, Beethoven's 9th, Bernard Haitink), Aug. 25.

n 9,292 -- Boston Pops, Jerry Garcia Tribute, Keith Lockhart, June 22.

n 9,097 -- BSO, Christian Zacharias, pianist-conductor; Aug. 11,


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