Tanglewood a valuable asset to the Berkshires

I love the letters to the editor of this newspaper. Even if I don’t agree with the content, they are quite frequently stimulating and well crafted. Research shows that I am not alone in going to the editorial page to read these opinions.

These letters have signatures at the end of them. They are nothing like the hysterical, unsigned rants that Internet trolls post wherever they can — a kind of ugly new graffiti. But what goes around comes around and every so often we will see the same old, same old, no matter how well written the letter.

For example, a letter that recently appeared suggested that Tanglewood doesn’t do its proper share of giving the communities on which it sits more money from their coffers. Their parent company, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is the absolute hub of the cultural offerings that bring people to the Berkshires every summer. In fact, the Berkshires would not be the Berkshires were it not for Tanglewood. If for some disastrous reason we lost Tanglewood, it would be as if a great Ice Age had descended on the Berkshires.

If we were to lose Tanglewood, I assure you we will have lost our raison d’être for keeping the bad guys out. Several years ago there was a major move to bring a prison to our area. The location was to be very close to Tanglewood. Many of us who did not care to have this institution in our backyard made the argument that its existence would hurt or reputation as a summer destination.

We won that fight because we have been chosen by the BSO to be their summer home. They have been generous to a fault, allowing other nonprofits to use their space. Can you imagine how many businesses would fail if Tanglewood disappeared? All kinds of committees would be established to fill the void. Even then, it would prove impossible.

It isn’t that the Boston Symphony doesn’t have problems. After all classical music is just that, classical. It isn’t for everybody. Those of us who love it and are stimulated by it are in debt to the BSO for what they give to us. WAMC, which I am proud to head, is given the benefit of playing every concert for almost no money at all. We are thankful to both their CEO, Mark Volpe, for all he has done to allow that to happen and to the members of the BSO for their generosity. But as the population ages, the task of getting all of us to go is not an easy one. The number of people employed by the Boston Symphony in the summer is formidable.

Our letter writer makes the point that nonprofits should only serve the poor. She makes the assumption that people should pay for entertainment. In saying so, she forgets all of us who, when we had no money, lay out under the stars, listening to the music and thanking whatever force there is that brought us magical experience.

The idea that government should only help the poor is exactly the reason why we have the schism that exists between the haves and the have-nots. If everyone were to benefit, there is much less likelihood that those with the most would be so unhappy with those who have the least and vice versa.

So what is it that makes people make the kind of mistake evidenced by our letter writer? Is it hubris? Is it misplaced anger? I don’t know but I want to beg our writer to reconsider her words.

The truth is, we are great beneficiaries of having this wonderful resource in our laps. To put it mildly, the loss of this institution would be a disaster. I thank our letter writer for her efforts but I assure her that she is dead wrong.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 6/13/15

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