Boston U to continue Tanglewood Institute next summer amid financial review


LENOX -- Let the music play -- at least for one more season.

As Boston University reviews the future of its Tanglewood Institute for high school students established in 1966, "we are going forward, business as usual," said Phyllis Hoffman, executive and artistic director of the program for the last 17 years.

It is unclear whether the survival of the eight-week BUTI program serving 350 students represents a reprieve caused in part by a high-profile social media campaign by several faculty members to save it, Hoffman told The Eagle on Monday. The university had never stated officially that BUTI would not be up and running in the summer of 2014, she pointed out.

But, Hoffman acknowledged, "the outpouring of support is gratifying as a reflection of the profound and enduring impact of the program on its alumni and faculty."

The university has appointed an advisory committee of faculty and administrative leaders to review all aspects of BUTI. Its recommendations are due by Dec. 31, said Hoffman, a professor of music at the university who is not part of the group but expects to contribute to the study. The summer institute is part of the College of Fine Arts’s School of Music, which will be represented on the committee.

"There are concerns about the financial viability of the program that require this review," Hoffman explained, "and that’s a positive. The university needs to consider all aspects of the program, and it is important to acknowledge that BU has supported the institute for 48 years, and absorbed deficits."

Hoffman said she could not discuss the extent of red ink or whether the deficits have been growing in recent years.

Several faculty members have raised concerns about the condition of the multi-building campus at 45 West St., on the road to Tanglewood.

"There are problems with the infrastructure," Hoffman said, "but those have not made it impossible for the program to function. They do have to be addressed for the short-term and long-term future of the program."

Boston University acquired the campus, which includes a mansion, a separate theater, and other structures, in 1980. Before that, the campus was home to the Windsor Mountain School, a co-ed boarding facility, and later was owned briefly by Holliston Junior College.

"I speak for many of us when I say that the BUTI grounds are a sacred space to us, a place of peace, discovery, and creativity," said Brenda Patterson, who attended the program in 1994 and 1995. "That is the place from which all my inspiration springs, an experience that is not replicable just anywhere."

Patterson, a mezzo-soprano, was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in 1996 and is currently on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera.

BUTI was founded 47 years ago as the brainchild of the Boston Symphony’s music director at the time, Erich Leinsdorf, who sought a high school-level program to complement the orchestra’s institute for college-age and advanced young professionals. That institute, the Tanglewood Music Center, then known as the Berkshire Music Center, had been created by BSO Music Director and Tanglewood founder Serge Koussevitzky in 1940.

"The university faces important decisions about BUTI that have the potential to touch many, many lives," Hoffman stated. "I hope that the collaboration between the administration and the faculty will lead to a sustainable path for BUTI well into the future."

While BUTI has no formal ties to the BSO, the university pays a fee to the orchestra for the students’ use of the campus. "A contractual relationship with the BSO has existed since the inception of the program," Hoffman explained, though she could not disclose the amount of the fee.

The current cost of operating BUTI includes different budgets for various aspects of the program, she said, adding that she was not able to disclose specific numbers but could confirm that the institute is running a deficit.

But Hoffman maintained that the program had not been singled out for scrutiny by the university administration. "It is BU policy to have every school, college and other programs conduct self-studies and be reviewed," she declared.

Although there has been some suggestion that the program could be relocated to the Boston campus, there is no decision about that prospect. "In another location, it wouldn’t be what it is now," she asserted. "BUTI’s identity is strongly defined by its location and relationship with Tanglewood. That is an enhancement to the extensive curriculum that the students pursue."

As Hoffman described the summer program, "access to all the concerts is what makes it unique and our proximity to Tanglewood’s main grounds cannot be over-estimated in terms of making that possible."

But there is no prospect that if Boston University decides to discontinue the program, another academic institution might take it over, Hoffman emphasized.


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