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Tanglewood Learning Institute | New Doors


Henry Lee Higginson, founder of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, famously described his desire to have the BSO “open wide the doors” by making performances available to the broadest possible audience. On June 22, we’re opening them even wider with the debut of Tanglewood Learning Institute—an amalgam of events and interactions that will propel your experience of music into a new dimension.

In this inaugural summer, TLI invites you to explore new terrain and new takes on beloved works. From a subversive celebration of cabaret to a journey through the political landscape of Verdi’s Italy, our season spans dozens of thought-provoking and provocative programs: here are three.

Breaking Through: Meow Meow

During Prohibition, revelers had to navigate a secret passageway and whisper a password before entering a speakeasy. In addition to bathtub gin, cabaret was often on tap, with performances that stretched into the wee hours. That edgy legacy lives on in the work of the postmodern diva Meow Meow, who flips traditional notions of cabaret on their proverbial head. Her piece Pandemonium tosses French chansons and German lieder into a musical blender along with (among others) Piazzolla, Radiohead, and her original compositions. Meow Meow’s performances run the gamut: from quiet, soulful, and intimate—such as this exquisite rendition of “Sans Toi”—to thrilling showstoppers and spontaneous surprises. Expect the unexpected: this musical banquet will be served up on July 9 in Ozawa Hall as part of TLI’s Full Tilt program.

Prior to the performance, stop by her Meet the Makers talk at the Linde Center at 1:30 PM, where she’ll share insights on her unique style and explain her personal connection to cabaret. This behind-the-scenes discussion pairs well with her thrilling evening performance: come to both if you can.

Points of Entry: Giuseppe Verdi

Beyond Verdi’s fame as a composer, he was a respected politician whose activism contributed to Italy’s unification. On July 6, as part of our series The Big Idea, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will explore 21st-century nation-building in the context of the Requiem, and examine how competition and cooperation are shaping national politics today. (If you enjoy Secretary Albright’s presentation, you should consider attending my “Mighty Echoes” talks during the last weekend of August, where I’ll analyze how music can unite us and even inspire revolution.)

Good Vibrations: The Thrall of the Theremin

One of the first electronic instruments, the theremin is played without physical contact; the performer controls its frequency and volume through antennas that sense hand position. Our TLI Open House on Saturday, June 30 from 1:00 to 5:00 PM at the Linde Center features a smorgasbord of activities that include the weird and wonderful instruments theremin—played by Brian Robinson at 2:30 PM—a rare opportunity to experience this singular instrument in all its eerie, otherworldly glory.

“There’s an Oscar Wilde quote I love, from The Importance of Being Earnest: ‘I don’t play accurately—anyone can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression.’” Robinson says. “The theremin is ferociously difficult to play accurately, and yet it is the most expressive interface I’ve found for electronic sound. At the very least, playing theremin has made me a more attentive and expressive electric guitarist.”

Want to learn more about the theremin before the performance? There’s a TEDTalk for that.

I hope you’ll join us on a mind-altering journey through these eclectic portals of expression. See you at the Linde Center soon.

For more information about the Tanglewood Learning Institute and our summer programming, please visit

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