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1951, Leonard Bernstein: “Tanglewood is not a school… Tanglewood is a musical universe”

… what [Serge] Koussevitzky desired — was that the student emerge from this model universe with a conception of his own true orbit …

In the summer of 1951, Leonard Bernstein spoke at the opening exercises of Tanglewood Music Center. He was one of the first three conducting students in 1940, a student in 1941 and 1942, and went on to serve as a conducting mentor for decades through the summer of 1990.

In his 1951 speech, Bernstein described the educational vision for Tanglewood of his mentor, Serge Koussevitzky:

Tanglewood is not a school, in the strict sense. It does not offer courses, degrees, credits… no student is striving for grades. The goals are much higher than that.

Tanglewood is a musical universe where a young musician is subjected to gravitational pulls, magnetic fields, electrical impulses, varying atmospheres, and changing topography. What he emerges with, after it is all over, is not a report card, or the ability to play faster than the next fellow.

What Tanglewood hopes — and what [Serge] Koussevitzky desired — was that the student emerge from this model universe with a conception of his own true orbit; that the young planet acquire its direction, its sense of relationship to its fellow-planets, and its particular function in the larger universe outside.

Source: Tanglewood Music Center, 1951 Opening Exercises

More #Bernsteinat100

Learn more about Tanglewood: See how Bernstein shaped its evolution, and watch how his experiences as a student, and later as a conductor, shaped his life. Explore the Tanglewood tag.

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