Tanglewood draws more than 350,000 visitors annually. That’s more than 700,000 feet treading the lawn every year. Patrons picnic on the grass, tourists stroll through the grounds, children play ball behind the visitors’ center. Any ordinary grass wouldn’t hold up.
But during the nine-month offseason, Tanglewood staff prepare the grounds for the busy summer concert season. The grass — a mix of Kentucky bluegrass and ryegrass — needs aerating, seeding, mowing, and more, says Bruce Peeples, Tanglewood’s grounds supervisor.
“All facets of this place need attention,” he says. “It’s not just that when the grass grows, you mow it and forget about it.”
Peeples is a grass man. He grew up in the Berkshires with a large lawn and loved surprising his dad by mowing it. “Nothing made me happier than when my dad gave me a thumbs up or a hug after mowing,” he says.
From there, he started working for a golf course, and he logged 30 years of experience as a golf course superintendent. “I just really fell in love with it,” he says.
When he was first hired at Tanglewood this past winter, Peeples, 56, sat down with facilities manager Bobby Lahart to establish some goals for Tanglewood’s 75th-anniversary season.
“We hit the ground running, clearing the woods,” he says. During the fall and winter, the crew clears leaves, pine needles, and pine cones — more than 20,000 cubic yards of mulch every year.
“We literally have thousands of trees, over 24 different species,” says Lahart. “So there’s a significant amount of cleanup.”
Peeples also oversees Tanglewood’s horticultural program, growing flowers in Tanglewood’s three greenhouses for use in window boxes and decorations. And there’s 1½ miles of hedgerows to maintain.
According to Lahart, Peeples has already made substantial improvements to the grounds.
“Bruce conducts his own orchestra out there with the grounds crew,” Lahart says. “Unfortunately, the lawn mowers and equipment don’t really enhance the sounds of the people performing.”
Lahart, who has served as facilities manager for 13 years, brings his own talents to the Tanglewood team. He was a lawyer for 15 years, before he decided he wanted a change of pace.
“I was looking for more harmony,” he says. “And where better to find that than here?”
He does acknowledge that his law background helps him in his current position: “The analytical skill set is useful because I can then be proactive in taking steps against [worst-case] scenarios.”
Lahart, 53, has Tanglewood in his blood. His family has been providing services for the campus for three generations. His grandfather started as an outside electrical contractor in 1942, and Lahart’s father began doing electrical work in 1948. Lahart and his brothers grew up helping during the weekends and summer, and he initially worked as Tanglewood’s facility electrician for six years before becoming the facilities manager.
“It’s been a family tradition that I’m proud to carry on,” he says. The tradition may not end with him. Lahart says his 10-year-old daughter, Bom Bee, is very interested in his retirement date. Then, she can finally take over as facilities manager.
“She’s very clear about that,” Lahart says. “It’s readily apparent when someone is passionate.”
Lahart, Peeples, and the other nine full-time facilities and grounds staff have more than 100 years of combined experience maintaining the Tanglewood campus.
“The goal is to have people enjoy the place and leave safely,” says Peeples. “How we get to that point is a behind-the-scenes thing.”