The Linde Center for Music and Learning is the newest addition to Tanglewood’s quiet and vibrantly green campus. Approximately $40 million in the making, it’s a complex of four single-story buildings — three studio spaces and a café — made of Western red cedar and glass, creating a sleek, geometric look that blends into the nature around it. Each of the buildings are bright and airy, and they are connected by a winding serpentine path. At the center of it all is a nearly century old red oak tree, standing tall and green.
But the Linde Center is not just a new building. It’s home to a brand new initiative from Tanglewood and the Boston Symphony Orchestra called the Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI). The TLI is a year-round program that aims to take an interdisciplinary and more active approach to culture, music and arts education. It’s open to everyone — professionals and amateurs alike.
“[At] the Tanglewood Learning Institute, I think we have created a wide variety of programs, much of which feel expected,” said Sue Elliott, the Judith and Stewart Colton Tanglewood Learning Institute director. Some of those programs include master classes where Tanglewood Music Center Fellows enhance their skills with experts like Yo-Yo Ma, and a "Meet the Makers" series where artists and composers open up about their creative process.
“And then we’ve thrown in — as an experiment, because we are learning, too — some things that perhaps aren’t so expected,” Elliott said. Things like painting and photography classes in partnership with a local art school, and film screenings from the Berkshire International Film Festival.
The goal is to get people to slow down, think differently, make connections and try something new.
“There may be a chance for everybody to perfect their kazoo playing this summer,” she said, “on at least one occasion.”
Kazoo lessons are perhaps not what you would expect in a place known primarily for professional musicians performing classical music in the summer.
“The reality is that was what Tanglewood was,” said Mark Volpe, president and CEO of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Volpe says that even though the concept may sound strange, the TLI has deep roots in the Tanglewood history and tradition.
Tanglewood was started in 1937 by Serge Koussevitzky, who was the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s music director between 1924 and 1949.
“He always had this idealistic and candidly optimistic look,” Volpe said.
Part of that look was to help create year-round employment for his musicians and give audiences the opportunity to enjoy the orchestra’s music through the summer, surrounded by the natural beauty of the Berkshires.
Then, in 1940, Koussevitzky had another idea. He wanted to help foster talent among young musicians around the world by inviting them to study and learn together from famous musicians and composers, like Aaron Copland. That was the start of the Tanglewood Music Center.
Koussevitzky died in 1951. Tanglewood, however, has continued to grow and evolve according to three big ideas that were at the heart of Koussevitzky’s Tanglewood: education, nature and human connection.
“And so out of that comes the Tanglewood Learning Institute, which is absolutely consistent with Koussevitzky’s vision,” Volpe said.
To get involved at the TLI, you don’t have to be a world-class musician or artist. You just have to be curious and willing to let your guard down to welcome new ideas, skills and perspectives.
“I think one of the principles for TLI is creating safe spaces for everyone,” Elliott said. “Everybody brings with them to these spaces and these events their own personal histories. We hope to extend and deepen that in a shared way.”
Of course, Tanglewood still welcomes audiences to enjoy its concerts and music fellows to learn on its campus. But Elliott hopes the TLI will encourage people to branch out and learn something new.
“We’re just getting started,” she said. “Tell us what you’re interested in, and let’s see where that takes us.”
The Linde Center for Music and Learning officially opens its doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony June 28, with open house events running through the weekend.