A critical but molecularly uncharacterized step in heart formation and regeneration is the process that commits progenitor cells to differentiate into cardiomyocytes. Here, we show that the endoderm-derived dual Nodal/bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) antagonist Cerberus-1 (Cer1) in embryonic stem cell cultures orchestrates two signaling pathways that direct the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex to cardiomyogenic loci in multipotent (KDR/Flk1+) progenitors, activating lineage-specific transcription. Transient inhibition of Nodal by Cer1 induces Brahma-associated factor 60c (Baf60c), one of three Baf60 variants (a, b, and c) that are mutually exclusively assembled into SWI/SNF. Blocking Nodal and BMP also induces lineage-specific transcription factors Gata4 and Tbx5, which interact with Baf60c. siRNA to Cer1, Baf60c, or the catalytic SWI/SNF subunit Brg1 prevented the developmental opening of chromatin surrounding the Nkx2.5 early cardiac enhancer and cardiomyocyte differentiation. Overexpression of Baf60c fully rescued these deficits, positioning Baf60c and SWI/SNF function downstream from Cer1. Thus, antagonism of Nodal and BMP coordinates induction of the myogenic Baf60c variant and interacting transcription factors to program the developmental opening of cardiomyocyte-specific loci in chromatin. This is the first demonstration that cues from the progenitor cell environment direct the subunit variant composition of SWI/SNF to remodel the transcriptional landscape for lineage-specific differentiation.