Tanglewood Institute in Lenox gets three-year reprieve
LENOX -- The Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) training academy has won a three-year reprieve from the threat of a shutdown after its upcoming summer season, but it will require a major overhaul for its long-term survival.
A memo from BU Provost Jean Morrison addressed to School of Music faculty and staff declared that an executive director will be appointed to help stop the flow of red ink at the institute and to begin intensive fundraising. If BUTI is to survive beyond 2017, a statement from the university administration said, the program must become self-sustaining.
The decision by Morrison and BU President Robert A. Brown, officially announced on Monday, was based on recommendations from an advisory group appointed last October amid reports circulated by several faculty members that the institute appeared to be on life-support.
"If the goal of establishing BUTI on sound fiscal footing is not met," the university will consider closing it, Morrison said in his staff memo.
The prestigious training academy for high school age musicians opened in 1967 in the former Windsor Mountain School on West Street.
Among the institute's challenges listed by university leaders are aging, deteriorating buildings at the campus, rising operating costs, faculty and staff salary requirements, and an increase in BU subsidies needed to keep the program afloat.
The newly created full-time post of executive director was among proposals offered to the advisory committee by BU College of Fine Arts Dean Benjamin Juarez, who was out of the country on Monday and could not be reached.
The university's internal auditors will review the eight-week summer institute's budget with a goal of balancing it by overhauling its overall design, income and expense structure, described by Juarez in a prepared announcement as reflecting "a very complicated and inefficient use of some resources."
The overhaul includes a review of the number of students and the duration of each program to achieve "a context we can afford," Juarez stated.
A national search is underway to fill the full-time executive director position. Phyllis Hoffman will retain her role as the artistic director of BU but will no longer have executive director responsibilities -- she had held both jobs for 17 years.
In a prepared statement, Hoffman, a voice professor at BU's School of Music, said she is "thrilled that the university has expressed a commitment to build upon the achievements of the past 47 years. We are grateful that the committee and the administration recognize BUTI's unique and inspirational environment and its profound and enduring impact on its alumni."
BUTI admits about 340 students ages 14 to 20 each summer to the program headquartered at the mansion and other buildings on West Street near downtown Lenox. Most of their studies are off-campus at sites such as the nearby Morris Elementary School and Berkshire Country Day School.
BUTI students perform concerts during the summer at Ozawa Hall. The institute is separate from the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC), operated by the orchestra as the final training ground for advanced college-age musicians and young professionals. BU pays a fee to the BSO for use of its facilities -- the amount is undisclosed.
At least 14 BUTI alumni have become members of the BSO, Juarez noted, describing the institute as "an important feeder of undergraduate students" for the Boston University School of Music.
Admission, which requires a recommendation and audition, costs $2,800 for a two-week program and $7,500 for the full summer.
Responding to the university's nine-member advisory team led by Nicole Hawkes, associate provost for strategic initiatives, Juarez detailed an action plan to be implemented immediately that would streamline operations, improve its cost-effectiveness, expand fundraising, and "align the Lenox campus visually with the BU brand."
"BUTI is a distinctive program with the potential to contribute significantly to the future of professional music, giving BU an important leadership role," Hawkes stated.
Juarez described the institute as "an extraordinary program, but like so many arts programs, it has its complexities and challenges. The recommendations made by the committee make enormous sense and reflect the committee's careful evaluation of every facet of the program."
"We have already begun implementing the items outlined in my response to the committee's report, and look forward to continuing to make progress with the School of Music's full engagement as we work toward creating a sustainable future for BUTI's next chapter," he added.
The university aims to fill the executive director position before the summer season begins in mid-June.
Job postings on music industry sites describe a salary range of $75,000 to $85,000, an "indefinite job duration" and a mandate to manage the operating budget, help develop strategic goals and vision, hire and supervise the full-time staff and maintain "BUTI's profile in the national and international music scene." The position reports directly to Juarez, the dean of BU's College of Fine Arts.
BU's interim School of Music Director Richard Cornell voiced gratitude for the three-year reprieve but also acknowledged the university's challenge to the faculty to "help guide that program to a sustainable future."
"The faculty of the college have placed high value on the program and what it has achieved for nearly 50 years, investing in it an immense amount of human capital," Cornell added. "It is a proud and optimistic moment for the School of Music and for the College of Fine Arts."
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1966: BSO Music Director Erich Leinsdorf proposes a summer academy for high school age musicians to complement the Tanglewood Music Center, which trains college and conservatory graduates as well as young professionals.
1967: Boston University's College of Fine Arts Dean Edward Stein welcomes the proposal; BUTI opens that summer.
1980: BU acquires the 45 West St. campus that had housed Windsor Mountain School and, briefly, Holliston Junior College, for $590,000. The 60-acre site includes the main, all-stone mansion built in 1903 as Groton Place, a modern theater and other buildings. The town's assessed value for the property is now about $6 million.
October 2013: With deficits rising and campus buildings in need of repair, the university appoints an advisory committee to assess BUTI's future.
April 2014: BU announces a three-year grace period for the institute, saving it from shutdown after this summer but requiring it to become self-supporting for long-term survival.