Tanglewood celebrates families at annual fun fest
LENOX >> For one special day each summer, 100 volunteers at Tanglewood pull out all the stops to make sure even the youngest visitors can enjoy the gift of music.
The sounds of children exploring the world of music will fill the storied Lenox campus on Friday as performances, arts and crafts, and all manner of engaging activities span the Shed side of the property, from the Grille to the formal gardens.
The centerpiece of the annual Family Fun Fest is the campus-wide Scavenger Hunt, which children complete to receive a musical-themed prize.
"We want them to see the magic of Tanglewood," said Nina Jung, director of board, donor and volunteer engagement for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. "This year we have eight stops along the way, and children go to each location, complete the activity and get a stamp, which spells out a special surprise word."
Scavenger Hunt activities include face painting and the popular instrument playground, where community and retired BSO musicians help youngsters try out various orchestral instruments, from violins to horns. Lenox neighbors Shakespeare & Company will bring costumes for the dress-up station, and the Berkshire Museum will make dinosaur masks based on its current exhibit of dinosaur family life.
Numerous groups will perform to ensure the grounds are filled with the sound of music. Boston University Tanglewood Institute will provide celebratory fanfares, and kids can dance along to brass instrument music from Tanglewood Music Center Fellows. The Berkshire Music School will send its Suzuki Strings, Allegro Strings and Teen Cabaret student ensembles, while young Berkshire Theatre Group actors will perform excerpts from its upcoming community theater production "Beauty and the Beast."
Families can also enjoy interactive percussive dancing by MCLA's dysFUNKcrew, a drawing demonstration by Pat O'Donnell of the Norman Rockwell Museum, and a healthy breakfast cooking demo by Stop & Shop nutritionist Julie Hersey.
As an added bonus, families can sit on the Shed lawn and watch rehearsals for Saturday's live "Prairie Home Companion" radio broadcast, the last by host Garrison Keillor from Tanglewood.
"They have been so wonderful to let us take over campus [with] horns coming out of the Tent Club and singing from the Chamber Music Hall and all the clatter and noise during their rehearsal," Jung said. "But they actually thrive on it and love that there's this collaboration and all these families on campus."
With over 1,500 people already signed up, around 2,000 children and adults are expected in total. The age range for children is mostly 5 to 10 years old, with some as young as 1 month and as old as 17 taking part, Jung said.
Family Fun Fest is part of the Highland Street Foundation's "Free Fun Fridays," which for 10 weeks of the summer lets eight different cultural venues each Friday across the state open free of charge. Mass MoCA, the Clark Art Institute and the Mount also will offer free admission on Friday.
Now in its fifth year, the event was conceived by longtime area educators and Tanglewood volunteer leaders Margy Steinberg and Bill Ballen, and inaugurated during the acclaimed music festival's 75th anniversary season.
"We came up with this idea of using the grounds to showcase a lot of the arts groups in the area," Steinberg said. "It has grown as we've partnered with others, and the program this year is so broad and rich."
Steinberg, who first visited Tanglewood nearly 40 years ago with her then-new husband, Lewis, grew up attending Leonard Bernstein's NY Philharmonic Young People Concerts. "Music was definitely in my blood," she recalled.
She knows firsthand the impact early exposure to classical music can have on impressionable youngsters. She also helped create Tanglewood's "Watch & Play" series, four Sunday afternoon programs that introduce musical themes and instruments to young children, part of the festival's family-centered programming that includes "Tanglewood on Parade" on Aug. 2, a family concert on July 9, and "Kids' Corner" each weekend.
Steinberg fully supports the notion that music helps kids become well rounded.
"Music helps develop other skills, and today's education system doesn't put a lot of money into the arts," Steinberg said. "If there are going to be audiences in the future, arts organizations have to take the bull by the horns and help engage children."
"Music is so enriching in life," she said. "No matter what kind of music, whether it's classical or jazz or hip-hop, music shows kids possibilities."
If you go ...
What: Tanglewood Family Fun Fest
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Friday
Where: Tanglewood, 297 West Street, Lenox
Admission: Free and open to all
Registration (recommended): www.tanglewood.org/familyfunfest
Information: (413) 637-5393
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