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Your Guide to BSO Tanglewood in the Berkshires

Here is your guide to BSO Tanglewood in the Berkshires, one of our best known cultural activities and events in the area. The Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) was founded in 1881 following the vision of Henry Lee Higginson, a Civil War veteran and philanthropist. It has served the patrons of Boston well since its inception through concerts, radio and television performances, educational programs, and tours. But, in 1937, with the generous gift of a summer home in the Berkshires, its audience expanded exponentially.


The concept of outdoor concerts performed in the pastoral setting of the Berkshires began as a simple idea. Created by a group of music lovers that summered in western Massachusetts, the New York Philharmonic performed the first of this three-concert series. Following the success of the first two series held in 1934 and again in 1935, the Boston Symphony Orchestra joined the scene in 1936 under the direction of Serge Koussevitzky.

The grounds of Holmwood held the original concerts under a tent, one of the infamous summer cottages. Later that year, the heirs to the Tappen estate gifted their 110-acre property known as Tanglewood to the BSO as their summer home, and the rest is history.


As the plans grew to create a world-class venue to showcase all forms and styles of music, the BSO formulated their guiding principles for their summer home at Tanglewood. Essentially, their mission is to “foster and maintain an organization dedicated to making music.” But, beyond simply providing a stage to perform, the BSO intends to provide training and education for aspiring musicians and to embrace excellence in all its forms.

Tanglewood Festival

Considered the leading music festival in the U.S. and one of the best in the world, the Tanglewood Festival is held every summer on the estate’s grounds. Featuring a variety of music art forms, including choral, contemporary, jazz, pop, symphonic, chamber, and musical theater. The festival’s heart features performances by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops. The Popular Artists series is a well-loved summer event that brings contemporary artists to the stage, including the annual 4th of July concert by James Taylor.

Tanglewood Music Center

Founded in 1940 by music director Serge Koussevitzky, the Tanglewood Music Center offers aspiring musicians an opportunity to hone their skills under the guidance of BSO musicians and other leading dignitaries in music from around the globe. Students apply to the Center to pursue excellence in vocal arts, piano, instrumental arts, composition, and conducting.

Among the noteworthy artists who studied at the Tanglewood Music Center, conductor Leonard Berstein stands out among the crowd. Offered a summer of living and working among the best and the brightest of the music world, a chance to attend one of the esteemed summer programs is an aspiring musician’s dream come true.

Tanglewood Learning Institute

A host of engaging learning experiences creates the foundation of the Tanglewood Learning Institute. Participants engage in open workshops, conversations with artists, immersion events, and more, designed to deepen knowledge and understanding of the complexities of music and the arts.  Founded in 2019 as an expansion of the Tanglewood Music Center, the Institute’s programs feature lectures, live performances, and discussions led by noted experts in their field.

Wooden picnic table with picnic basket, apple, and binoculars with green grass in the background

Picnicking at Tanglewood

One of the highlights of attending a concert on the grounds of Tanglewood is the opportunity to spread a blanket or tablecloth and dine in style with a summer picnic on the rolling lawns of the property.

With the concert hut as the focal point and the Stockbridge Bowl shimmering in the sunlight below, a well-planned menu of picnic items and the obligatory bottle of a vintage wine share the spotlight with the musicians. Some seasoned concertgoers break out the family silverware and crystal goblets to mark the occasion. Some simple words of advice when planning your menu go a long way to creating a remarkable and memorable experience.

  1.  Pack as lightly as possible, as some parking spots are far from the gate
  2.  Use disposable containers as the guiding principle is “carry in, carry out”
  3.  No open flames allowed
  4.  Bring lots of ice to keep food and drinks cool throughout the concert
  5. Avoid mayo-based salads and food that might quickly spoil in the summer heat
  6. Raid the guest pantry for sweet treats to pack for your Tanglewood date, or order wine and a gourmet picnic basket from our Enhancements menu

Seating, Parking, and Tickets

It’s best to know where your seats are for any of the events held on the Tanglewood campus. Parking can be tricky, whether heading to the Koussevitzky Music Shed, the Ozawa Hall, the Linde Center, or the lawn. Free parking is available at several general lots via West Street and Tanglewood Drive for summer events. Parking attendants will guide you to the appropriate parking lots. The Linde Center holds spring, fall, or winter events.

Purchase tickets for all events at the box offices in season. For help with ticketing information or subscriptions, contact customer service by phone. Check the Tanglewood schedule for upcoming performances and ticket pricing.

Stay at Devonfield Inn

Tanglewood has become a cherished summer tradition among patrons of the arts. But the Berkshires offer much more to see and do in any season. When you stay at Devonfield Inn in nearby Lee, MA, you’ll be well-positioned to enjoy all the area’s cultural offerings, along with exciting outdoor adventures and specials.

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