Tanglewood presents plan for big expansion

An artist’s rendering of the new four-building complex planned for Tanglewood.
Courtesy of Dongik Lee and William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc.
An artist’s rendering of the new four-building complex planned for Tanglewood.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is set to launch an ambitious expansion of its Tanglewood campus in Lenox, creating a new $30 million complex of performance, dining, and rehearsal buildings that will expand the summer music festival’s offerings to audiences and improve facilities for musicians.

The new four-building complex, set to open in 2019, represents the largest building initiative at Tanglewood since the opening of Ozawa Hall more than two decades ago.

The 24,500-square-foot complex will house a new audience-engagement initiative called the Tanglewood Learning Institute and enhance the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s acclaimed summer academy for emerging professionals. The project also includes significant upgrades to the rest of the 524-acre campus.


“This is a big deal: We’re talking about changing Tanglewood,” said BSO managing director Mark Volpe. “It’s a real expression of optimism.”

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Volpe, who said the project is funded by a handful of donors he declined to name, is now taking the campaign to the broader community to raise additional funds for a special endowment to support programming and maintenance for the new facilities, among other things.

The BSO project aims to cater to affluent audiences who increasingly seek deeper, more personal experiences with the arts organizations they favor, Volpe said.

“It’s getting ahead of the curve in terms of where we see demographics going,” he said. “We’re thinking how to keep those people intellectually stimulated, engaged, and philanthropically involved.”

As one of the preeminent music festivals in the country, Tanglewood is routinely thronged by audience members and musicians from around the globe. Last year, some 350,000 visitors arrived at the BSO’s bucolic summer home in the Berkshire hills, where attractions included not only the symphony under music director Andris Nelsons, but also the Boston Pops, starry guest artists such as Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma, and performances by the likes of Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, and James Taylor.


The new Tanglewood Learning Institute will offer visitors up-close-and-personal experiences with the summer’s musical programming, including access to lectures, performances, master classes, rehearsals, panel discussions, films, and other activities.

A look at one of the renderings for the expanded Tanglewood.
Courtesy of Dongik Lee and William Rawn Associates, Architects Inc.
A look at one of the renderings for the expanded Tanglewood.

Meanwhile new rehearsal studios will provide much-needed space for the Tanglewood Music Center, whose fellows have been known occasionally to rehearse in the nearby woods for want of available space.

A cafe with indoor seating for 150 is intended to be a central hub at the festival, where audience members can rub shoulders with musicians.

Volpe described the BSO’s strategy for the project as akin to efforts in major league sports.

Sports fans, he noted, “can pay these sports teams a lot of money to have access to certain things. They open up their training camps; we open up our rehearsals. We have to get comfortable with that.”


At the heart of the new complex will be a 4,000-square-foot performance space known as “Studio 1,” a flexible structure that can accommodate an audience of up to 300 and includes a large glass panel that opens onto the landscape. Two smaller rehearsal studios will be nearby.

The entire complex will be connected by a curving covered walkway, clustered around a 100-foot red oak tree on the campus’s Highwood ridge. It is being designed by William Rawn Associates, the same Boston architectural firm that designed Ozawa Hall. The gate to the hall will be relocated as part of the new construction.

Rawn said the new buildings would have important connections to the earlier project.

“The important thing was to get the scale of these buildings down, so they did not compete at all with Ozawa [Hall], but in fact were part of that tradition at Tanglewood of having these background buildings that fold into the landscape,” said Rawn. “We wanted to capture the informality and the intensity of the musical experience simultaneously.”

The Tanglewood Learning Institute will host activities that track closely with the season’s musical programming.

Tanglewood director Anthony Fogg said there would probably be concentrated offerings four or so weekends each summer, with others planned throughout the season.

He described a “passport program” in which visitors could choose which events they would attend, be it observing a BSO rehearsal, attending a lecture, or visiting backstage with musicians and conductors. The studios will also be outfitted with state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, making possible webcasts and distance learning.

“It goes back to some of [former BSO music director Serge] Koussevitzky’s original ideas about the festival, that it would be a gathering place for great thinkers,” said Fogg, who also serves as the BSO’s artistic administrator. “We want this to be music-centric. It will of course embrace related art forms and political/social movements as need be, but we want to keep the focus on music.”

The smaller studios will serve primarily as rehearsal, performance, and observation spaces for the festival’s roughly 150 Tanglewood Music Center fellows, who today must often rehearse at odd hours and in less than ideal locations. “We’re packed to the gills,” said Tanglewood Music Center director Ellen Highstein.

The project also includes plans by landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand to plant nearly 150 new trees and improve views and irrigation on the campus.

Volpe said that the four climate-controlled buildings would be made available for community use in the off-season, though it was too early to have a clear sense of potential revenue from such use.

“It can be a civic resource, it can be an educational resource, it could be for destination weddings,” said Volpe. “Our economic modeling is based not just on more people coming, but people that are already coming spending more time and resources, and wanting to have a different and deeper experience with Tanglewood than they currently have.”

Malcolm Gay can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @malcolmgay.