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New England News

A ‘Dream’ For BUTI Students At BSO’s 80th

Saturday marks the 80th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s first performance at Tanglewood, its summer home. Here's a preview of a theatrical adaptation of Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

A chorus of fairies from the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, a rigorous summer training program for high school students, will be in the background of the production.

It’s not just another summer day camp.

“Voice lessons, and coachings, and rehearsals all the time,” Logan Riley says.

Logan Riley goes to Monarch High School in Boulder, Colorado. She wants to study music at Boston University.

“Crossing my fingers,” Riley says.

She and Caroline Chung from Virginia are sopranos. Chung wants to attend Northwestern for music:

“Fingers crossed,” Chung says.

Riley says the program helps students get a jump on their professional portfolio.

“The application process for this camp was making a video tape of yourself singing and I think that will make my college applications easier because I have already gone through the process of recording myself,” Riley says.

More students are applying for the summer program than ever. Enrollment is at a record 430, with students coming from 35 states and 11 countries. More than twice that amount apply. Admitted students attend two-, four- or six-week programs.

There is also a pilot 19-member junior strings intensive program for ages 10-13.

Executive Director Hilary Respass says BUTI celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

“Very unique constellation of an affiliation with Boston University, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as this very, very kind of unique community of young artists from across the country who come together to study and to perform all summer together,” Respass says. “It’s a very special place.”

The program costs up to $8,300 per person, with less than half receiving full or partial scholarships.

It has come full-circle – many faculty members were once students here. Again, Riley.

“My old voice teacher came here when she was my age, and I thought I would follow in her footsteps because this is just such an amazing program,” Riley says.

Katie Woolf, a Boston University graduate, conducts the Young Artists Chorus at BUTI. She’s been with the program for 10 years. Of the 70 students in the Young Artists Vocal Program, 22 were selected for the Mendelssohn piece.

Woolf says many students return for more than one year.

“The fact that the students get to spend their summers surrounded by this beautiful scenery and get to go to BSO concerts and recitals just about every night just really makes it a special program,” Woolf says.

As for Saturday’s performance with the BSO, Woolf says preparing has been a treat.

“It’s been a fun work that’s a little bit more challenging than I think we were expecting,” Woolf says. “It’s Mendelssohn so it’s very tonally accessible but there are enough little details that he changes from verse to verse that really make us pay attention.”

The students say they’ve learned a lot this summer.

“All of the classes that we have been taking – you know, diction in Italian, and music theory, and music history,” Chung says, “and it’s all taught me just so much about the career I am going into: when I need to prepare a song, the meaning behind the music. It’s all been so helpful. I feel like I have grown just in terms of understanding the music.”

“No matter how hard it gets, how tired you are, how many classes you have to take, how much homework you have: it’s really, deeply – it’s about the music and if you truly love the music, it will all be worth it,” Riley says.

They practice in an all-stone mansion built in 1903, at the facility’s modern theater, or in 10 other buildings on the 64-acre campus.

The Lenox-based campus known as Groton Place housed Windsor Mountain School and Holliston Junior College.

The facility is aging, and Repass says it will need a multimillion dollar renovation in the near future. BUTI has an endowment of more than $430,000.

“To get here you have to work very hard but once you get up on that stage and you open your mouth and you start to sing or you start to perform, it’s just, music is just the most rewarding, it’s the most rewarding thing. That moment before the sound comes out, it’s just…,” Chung says.

Bliss.

Before the Tanglewood show, the chorus will have a concert open to the public at 2:30 in Ozawa Hall. 

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