Graduating to next stage
David Greer has been onstage at Tanglewood twice in his life -- both times to receive a diploma.
Greer's first appearance came in 1998 during Monument Mountain High School's graduation ceremony, held in the Shed. The 32-year-old Lanesborough man returned to the stage on June 1 to be formally awarded his associate's degree in nursing from Berkshire Community College.
With his wife, MacKenzie, and 1-year old son Vincent watching from the wooden seats of the venerable outdoor music venue, Greer said the setting enhanced the memorable occasion.
"Tanglewood really makes it special," he said. "I can't imagine graduating anywhere else."
MacKenzie Greer, having never experienced a commencement exercise at Tanglewood, couldn't wait to see her husband, dressed in a cap and gown, proceed down the aisle to the swell of "Pomp and Circumstance."
"It's a setting befitting the occasion," she said. "Tanglewood is quintessential Berkshires."
Greer is among the tens of thousands of BCC and area high school graduates who can say they once were center stage in the Shed. For decades, the community college, along with Lee, Lenox, Pittsfield, Monument Mountain Regional and Mt. Everett Regional high schools, have unofficially helped the Boston Symphony Orchestra open its summer home for the season.
"It's a nice prelude to the upcoming season," said Bobby Lahart, Tanglewood's facilities manager. "It gives us an opportunity to work out the logistics of an event before the concerts begin."
While the schools use Tanglewood free of charge, they are responsible for paying Tanglewood staff members who help on graduation day, according to BSO officials.
The tradition of Tanglewood hosting graduations in early June began 40 years ago, when Lee High School was looking for a large, reliable outdoor site -- rain or shine -- to hold commencement exercises. The small school gymnasium didn't work as an inside alternative in the case of inclement weather.
Former Lee High vice principal Henry T. Zukowski said Tan glewood was indirectly suggested during a conversation he had with the school's secretary, the late Pauline "Bobbie" Pollard.
"She said, ‘The place has to be as big as Tanglewood,' " Zukowski recalled. "I said, ‘That's our answer.' "
So in June of 1972, the 5,100-seat Shed hosted Lee High graduation. The next year, Lenox High students were onstage receiving diplomas. By 1980, Monument Mountain, Pittsfield High and BCC had moved its ceremonies to Tanglewood, with Mt. Everett going there in 1986.
Graduations at Tanglewood not only are a thrill for students, but for the high school musicians performing onstage during the ceremonies.
Michael Herman was an alto saxophonist with the Pittsfield High band that played at the school's graduation in 2006 and 2007.
"A lot of famous people have been on that stage: Yo-Yo Ma, Garrison Keillor and, of course, James Taylor," Herman said. "That's kind of cool being in that company."
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