You spread a blanket on the grass, and you sit with friends, sharing sourdough bread and cheddar and fresh strawberries. You come early to sit under the spreading trees, and the lawn is alive with children running, teens throwing glowing frisbees and picnickers who have gone all-out with candles and bottles of wine. And then the voices around you quiet for a high and melting cello solo. Or James Taylor strums a chord.

Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1938. Berkshire music lovers began a concert series in the 1930s and gave the orchestra its Lenox campus of more than 210 acres of lawns and meadows.

It became a center for firy classical performances — Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture with real cannon. Leonard Bernstein came as a student to the first class of what is now the Tanglewood Music Center, and Tanglewood’s founder, Serge Koussevitzgy, became his mentor. And today it draws top performers — Yo-Yo Ma, Emmanuel Ax — under the baton of Andris Nelsons.

Bernstein became a regular figure here and loved the place all his life as fiercely as in his first heady days as a student. He wrote then, ‘I have never seen such a beautiful setup in my life … (the TMC) is terrific enough to keep you going with no sleep at all.’

Award-winning classical guitarist Milos Karadaglic will perform at Tanglewood in Lenox.
Milos Karadaglic / Tanglewood

Rock, jazz and comedy

Top jazz musicians have performed at Tanglewood since Louis Armstrong played here in the 1960s. In the summer of 1969 you could have heard Janice Joplin belting Piece of My Heart across the lawn.

In the last few years Tanglewood has expanded with popular music in early and late summer — folk and rock, comedy and jazz, and Eddie Izzard bringing down the house with laughter.

The Tanglewood Learning Institute holds events year-round. Press photo courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Photo by Robert Benson

Tanglewood Learning Institute

In 2019, Tanglewood expanded year-round with the opening of the Linde Center, its first year-round space: four buildings holding performance and rehearsal spaces. The TLI explores themes in and around music — pairing concerts with film, art, theater and speakers from Tom Stoppard to Madeleine Albright.

The TLI partners with local organizations like the Berkshire International Film Festival and IS183 Art School and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival to bring programming year-round in the main performance hall with glass walls looking out over the lawn. The Martha Graham Dance Company may visit in March, or a master of the bandoleon from Argentina in November. And on a summer night BSO musicians, music students, guests artists and visiors sit together in the café.

BTW Berkshires