Our Opinion: Changing times at Tanglewood


The $30 million the Boston Symphony Orchestra will invest in Tanglewood over the next seven to eight years is a significant statement about the BSO's commitment to make its long-time summer home an even more appealing place in the decades to come. It is just as significant that the BSO has moved beyond mere acceptance of the need to increase its audience and expand its musical offerings to an enthusiastic embracing of this approach.

It's no longer seen as heresy to bring popular artists to Tanglewood, and the largely baby boomer acts appeal to a large audience with disposal income they are welcome to dispose of at Tanglewood and in local taverns, restaurants and hotels. The appearance of Wilco at Tanglewood was a turning point, as not only did the popular band draw an audience that may want to return to Tanglewood for more traditional fare, but the band's good experience led it to establish a relationship with Mass MoCA in North Adams.

In his appearance before the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Wednesday, BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe spoke of the "core mission" of the Tanglewood Music Center to instruct advanced young musicians each summer. This mission is not undermined by the addition of popular music, it benefits from it, as additional revenue for Tanglewood can help finance programs like the TMC, which costs $3 million to $4 million annually.

There is much that can be done on the grounds, such as expanding and upgrading the two concession areas, that will please audiences without jeopardizing the bucolic splendor that is at the essence of the Tanglewood experience. The Koussevitzky Shed exposes Tanglewood's age, as newer summer festival sites like Saratoga's have steep slopes that enable spectators to see over the heads of the patrons in front of them. That kind of upgrade would obviously be a monstrous undertaking at Tanglewood, but the presence of the screens in the back of the shed helps.

While Andris Nelsons doesn't take over as music director until next year, his appearance July 27 to conduct Verdi's "Requiem" heralds the change that is to come. Change is inevitable, and with its $30 million Tanglewood plan, commitment to popular music there, and the hiring of a young music director, the BSO is welcoming that change.


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