Tanglewood unveils plans for $30 million educational complex

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STOCKBRIDGE — The Boston Symphony Orchestra is taking the wraps off the biggest single investment in its summer home at Tanglewood since the opening of Ozawa Hall in 1994.

Orchestra leaders announced Tuesday night that a $30 million, four-building, heated and air-conditioned year-round multi-use complex — including a 200-seat performance space — will rise at the top of the lawn overlooking Ozawa Hall. Groundbreaking is planned for late this summer with an eye toward opening in summer 2019.

The project, which lies entirely within Stockbridge, represents a major educational commitment not only to the Tanglewood Music Center, which opened in 1940 and now trains about 150 advanced young musicians each season, but also as home to the newly unveiled Tanglewood Learning Institute for cultural enrichment programs aimed at weekend visitors to the annual summer festival.

The interconnected pavilion encompassing a climate-controlled performance space, two smaller studios and a cafe will be available for rental by Berkshire arts, educational and community organizations from September to June. Since Tanglewood opened the 5,000-seat Shed in 1938, its facilities have been strictly seasonal.

The entire $30 million cost already has been raised by the BSO, said Managing Director Mark Volpe in an interview from Symphony Hall in Boston."It's a very significant investment," he said.

In terms of today's dollars, it's easily the biggest one-time financial commitment on the 524-acre Tanglewood grounds.

Adjusted for inflation, construction of the Shed came in at about $2 million, while the total cost of Ozawa Hall was about $20 million.

What's more, Volpe pointed out, the project is the centerpiece of a multi-year fundraising effort for upgrades to the Ozawa Hall campus and landscaping improvements throughout the Tanglewood grounds.

The additional $10 million will include a specific endowment to support the orchestra's performances and other programming.

The investment rivals two of the larger cultural projects in the county — the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, costing $55 million in three phases over the past 25 years, and the Colonial Theatre renovation in Pittsfield at $22 million in 2006. The decade-long expansion of The Clark museum in Williamstown, completed in 2015, totaled $145 million, the most expensive cultural project in the county's history.

Volpe, the BSO's managing director since 1997, said the BSO formulated strategic plans after the Great Recession. Four committees delved into the future of Tanglewood, Symphony Hall, the Boston Pops, and the organization's media and technology resources.

The recommendations that emerged for Tanglewood included a rededication to the central programming mission — eight weeks of Boston Symphony and Boston Pops concerts — while expanding the shoulder seasons and keeping the TMC "in its lead position of professional training facilities," Volpe said.

"We concluded that we were bursting at the seams and needed more space for the TMC and other activities," he said.

The plans for Tanglewood are being presented to the Stockbridge and Lenox Select Boards this week. The new buildings are designed by William Rawn Associates/Architects of Boston — the firm that created the much-admired Ozawa Hall — with landscaping by Reed Hilderbrand of Cambridge.

Citing the goals of the new Tanglewood Learning Institute, Volpe noted that "a whole generation of baby boomers is retiring; people who will live longer and look for continued intellectual stimulation. The TLI will offer the public up to four weekends with a focus not only on music, but its connections to nature, dance, film and politics.

The largest of the four new buildings, Studio 1, will be used for multimedia TLI educational programs and lectures seating up to 300 people, as well as social and dining events. Reconfigured as a 200-seat performance space with a stage, it will accommodate rehearsals and concerts by the young Tanglewood Music Center Fellows and other performers, as well as off-season programs by Berkshire organizations.

A 150-seat dining cafe will be designed as "a center of gravity for everyone at Tanglewood," offering informal interaction between musicians, faculty and the public. The smaller spaces, Studios 2 and 3, are reserved for TMC rehearsal, performances and TLI educational presentations. Also planned are enhancements to the Ozawa Hall gate, including a new entranceway and upgraded food service and restroom amenities.

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The four interconnected climate-controlled buildings present opportunities for off-season activities, including weddings, Volpe added.

The complex will also enhance the BSO, including rehearsal space for the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, among other BSO-related rehearsal and concert activities.

"Studio 1 will be a very elegant, flexible space with a lot of possibilities," said Tony Fogg, the BSO's artistic administrator since 1994 and director of Tanglewood as of last year. "It will be acoustically of the highest order, an attractive facility for music groups and appealing for other arts entities in this area as well as a destination for conferences, gatherings and corporate events."

He stressed that "we're very conscious of maintaining the open, clear contact between music and the landscape that's central to the spirit of Tanglewood, with see-through, angled buildings creating an inspiring facility for rehearsals, study and socializing."

In a prepared statement, BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons predicted that "Tanglewood's new building project will provide the best possible atmosphere for the talented Fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center to learn and grow on their path to becoming the next generation of musicians, earning their spots in the world's great orchestras, concert halls and opera houses."

He described the Tanglewood Learning Institute as "a new chapter in the orchestra's remarkable history by connecting our audience to our music-making in new ways and expanding Tanglewood's reach by welcoming new visitors experiencing the festival's profound and extraordinary musical gifts."

Nelsons, whose residency expands to four weeks this summer and includes 10 performances with the BSO and TMC orchestras, added that "our investment in its future is essential as we continue to expand Tanglewood's many wonderful offerings."

Among the fee-based programs offered to the public at the TLI is a full-season, all-inclusive "passport" granting birds-eye opportunities to observe closed BSO and TMC rehearsals and attend TMC master classes. Other privileges include backstage visits with BSO and TMC musicians, guest artists and conductors.

Lectures by expert commentators will offer "the sorts of insights you wouldn't achieve otherwise," Fogg noted. "There will be a variety of different approaches centered on music, as well as a distance-learning component. A lot of the sessions will be captured on video and made available online later on."

In Fogg's view, "this is about responding to an intellectually curious body of people who come to Tanglewood, a lot of committed concertgoers who want to know more about the music. It's a great opportunity for more immersion into the art form we love."

For Ellen Highstein, the Tanglewood Music Center director since November 1997, the project resolves the institute's space crunch and limited resources.

Acknowledging her "endless complaining over the years," she called it "gratifying to be taken seriously. The additional facilities will make all kinds of things possible and will make our lives better, not necessarily easier and no less complicated. But we'll be able to do something about it rather than twisting ourselves into a pretzel."

Besides more facilities for Fellows and faculty, she listed more flexible space for the annual residency of the Mark Morris Dance Group and envisioned a discussion with Yo-Yo Ma on what TMC graduates face in the contemporary music world.

"This will strengthen the TMC's appeal, people won't have to be stuffed into corners," she said.

"As stewards of one of the world's most beloved summer music festivals and one of the top summer music academies for young musicians embarking on professional careers, all of us at the BSO feel a tremendous obligation to continue advancing Tanglewood's highest performance and education aspirations," Volpe said.

"We also welcome our role as caretakers of Tanglewood's exquisite beauty," he added. "The BSO is committed to ensuring the festival's growth through a new fundraising effort that addresses the many levels of support necessary to keep our beloved festival as vibrant and inspiring as possible."

Reach correspondent Clarence Fanto at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.


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