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A Tanglewood Debut – The BSO unveils the much-anticipated Linde Center

It’s not everyday a new building appears on the Tanglewood grounds. So when one does, it’s crucial that it blend in rather than stand out, adding to the experience visually and philosophically. The first new construction at Tanglewood in 25 years does exactly that.

Christened the Linde Center for Music and Learning in honor of former BSO board chair, the late Edward H. Linde, and his wife, BSO trustee Joyce Linde, this addition to the landscape offers much-needed new space for the Tanglewood Music Center and expands the institution’s mission as home to the Tanglewood Learning Institute.

It also gives the option of leasing space for private functions and provides a 150-seat cafe. For the first time in the history of Tanglewood, its use stretches through the cold season, thanks to its climate-control system. The Linde Center will offer open houses on June 28, 29, and 30; July 12; and August 6 and 25.

The project stretches back to 2012 when during a strategic-planning exercise for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors, Tanglewood artistic director Tony Fogg proposed that the future of the Berkshire institution revolve around formalizing the already-existing adult education efforts. “I said, maybe we create something called the Tanglewood Learning Institute, and it sort of stuck,” Fogg says.

That idea was combined with the well-established desire for additional space for the Tanglewood Music Center, and a new structure was proposed with a dual purpose. The $33-million Linde Center features four single-level buildings with photovoltaic solar panels on the roof and 6,000 square feet of performance and rehearsal space, including Studio E, a 250-seat auditorium with retractable tiered seating.

The philosophy behind the Tanglewood Learning Institute, or TLI, is something that BSO president and CEO Mark Volpe sees as crucial to Tanglewood’s future, serving audiences both now and in the future. “The millennials in particular want something more than just a concert,” Volpe says. “They want an experience. Ultimately people want more and they want to understand. I think the TLI is certainly a vehicle to address those matters.”

The building provided a return engagement for William Rawn Associates, which designed Seiji Ozawa Hall 25 years ago. Rawn and fellow principal Cliff Gayley felt personally invested in the TLI component of the project.

“This is really the BSO’s answer to the question that has been out there for years,” says Gayley. “How do we broaden the audience around classical music? How do we communicate its relevance and make it part of a cross disciplinary conversation? The TLI is all about that.”

The challenge was to offer flexibility of use that would include the outdoors as part of the inside experience, which culminated as four connected structures containing studios of varying sizes, all featuring large sliding glass doors providing scenic vistas and, when desired, open-air events. The three studios are connected by a covered serpentine path.

“We were able to position our building behind the wonderful mature red oak tree and really let the landscape be the story,” says Rawn.

As director of TLI, Sue Elliott’s job is to fill the Linde Center with purpose. Summer has been programmed, but Elliott is headed into unknown territory with the fall and winter months.

“We’ll be able to curate programming that’s specific to the Berkshire community, whereas when we’re in the midst of the Tanglewood summer, a lot of what we’re doing is connected directly to what’s happening at the Shed or Ozawa Hall,” Elliot says.” We’ll also be able to do some things that we wouldn’t necessarily do in the summer.”

That doesn’t mean that the TLI hasn’t embraced new possibilities for the summer, like the Sunday night film series in conjunction with the Berkshire International Film Festival or the Meet the Makers series, which invites creative professionals like performer Meow Meow and playwright Tom Stoppard to offer their perspectives on their work.

Elliott is also proud of the Big Ideas series, matching influential figures like Madeline Albright with musical performances and giving them a chance to explore the music through other disciplines in their talks. “Our philosophy for these activities is that they’re based on a more active engagement model,” Elliott says. “So we are not only 140 lectures about music this summer, we are a lot of different things. Even the speakers that we have coming in know that our expectation is that there’s a real active engagement with participants rather than simply talking at people.”

Volpe says he looks to professional sports for solid examples of the path Tanglewood needs to take in audience engagement.

“They’ve done a great job of showing how the sausage is made,” he says, “and all the nuances, all the strategies, the tactics and some of the personalities. I think we have not done as good a job as a sports people breaking down those barriers. With the TLI, you get to hear from experts how everything is connected. Music isn’t something in isolation of politics or nature or history and that’s part of it. The idea is to share how things work.”

Early data indicates the new building is delivering, with 15 percent of those who have signed up for TLI programming since February having never been to Tanglewood before.

“I’m guessing they’re more likely to never have been to the Berkshires before,” Fogg says. “I think this is tangible evidence that it’s helping the overall tourist business and increasing the number of visitors to the region through the summer months at least.”




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