Ice cream with John Demick, Tanglewood and Boston Symphony Orchestra stage manager

John Demick, the stage director for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its summer program at Tanglewood, grew up in Pittsfield. He held several different jobs before assuming his current responsibilities. His first job was as a paper boy.

When John Demick was growing up in Pittsfield and working at his family's grocery store and pharmacy, he dreamed of becoming a lawyer. Soon after arriving at Boston University, Demick switched majors to classical European history — much to his father's chagrin. But it was that love of classical work that eventually led him to designing sets for one of the world's best orchestras: the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Born to Dorothy and the late Dominic Demick, John is the youngest of six brothers. He grew up in Pittsfield attending Catholic schools, playing golf and working at the Nichols' family stores. In Boston he got his first real taste of classical music and grew an appreciation for the music. Through a lot of hands-on-learning and dedication, Demick is now the stage director for the Boston Symphony Orchestra and their summer program at Tanglewood.

Demick travels the world with the symphony, making sure all the instruments, music library, chairs, stands, audio, lighting, staging and other equipment — enough to fill two 53-foot trucks — makes it to the performance space on time and looking right.

Another way to put it is Demick and his crew are responsible for 18 to 20 tons of gear during setup and relocation for the symphony's frequent concerts. In 2019, the orchestra and the Boston Pops — which is the orchestra, minus the first chair players — is slated to perform more than 100 concerts.

But he started out as a newspaper delivery boy for The Berkshire Eagle.

"The work ethic was instilled early. I've always worked," Demick said while chatting over a bowl of triple berry ice cream at The Scoop in Lenox. "We were never hungry or in need, but we were hardly wealthy. If you wanted money, you worked for it."

Paper boy: Demick started his paper delivery route at age 8 or 9. The Eagle had an afternoon edition then, so he'd go to the corner of North Street and Pontoosuc Avenue, pick up a pile of waiting newspapers and put them in customers' mailboxes. He doesn't remember how much the job paid, probably not much, he said. But he does remember the generosity people showed when they tipped him for Christmas. Some people gave him as much as $5, which was pretty nice for the 1970s. "I never missed," Demick said. "That wasn't necessarily the Eagle's policy, but that was my dad's point of view," he said.

Retail associate: Demick entered this field when he became a teenager and was old enough to work at his family's businesses. The Nichols, his mother's family, owned a pharmacy, Nichols Package Store and Harry's Supermarket. Demick said he didn't have a job title, per say, he just did whatever needed to be done: stocking, delivery, sales, clean up, bag groceries, etc.

Groundskeeper: Demick said he was bitten by the "golf bug" while in high school. He and a friend would create small Wiffle ball courses in their backyards. Demick's high school golf coach was working at Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield and offered him a gig on the grounds crew. For the first few years he was at Boston University, Demick would come home during the summer to work at Berkshire Hills.

Bartender: During his sophomore year in college, in the early 1980s, a friend told Demick about a job opening at his place of employment, Boston Symphony Hall. They needed a bartender — could he do it? Demick hadn't mixed drinks professionally before, but figured he could learn enough in the days before the job started to make a decent go at it.

"I figured, I can do that," he said.

Maintenance worker: The following year, the music hall was in need of summertime renovations so Demick joined the crew and stayed in Boston painting, cleaning and repairing the building over the season.

Art gallery and frame shop associate: After graduating from Boston University in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in the classics — ancient European history — he got a job at a high-end frame and art gallery shop in Boston. The job didn't pay much, so he kept his nighttime gig bartending at Symphony Hall.

Stage crew: In 1987 a full-time job opened up at Symphony Hall on the stage crew. When he got the job, Demick figured he'd work on stage setting and design for five years — that was 32 years ago.

"The crew is a small part of what happens on the stage, but it's a pretty great feeling, like you're contributing something worthwhile," Demick said.

Stage management: Demick worked his way up the stage crew ladder getting involved in all areas of set and design. Performances have specific stage requirements to deliver an optimal experience. Everything from chair height to aisle width and musician position has to be exact.

Tanglewood and Boston Symphony Orchestra stage director: In 2001, Demick started in the job he still has today: making sure everything looks, feels and sounds right on stage for an internationally recognized band of about 100 musicians. He loves the job, though it is demanding. Down time seems to always be shrinking as the orchestra increases its number of performances. That's fine by Demick, he's not good at doing nothing. One of the best aspects of the job is traveling to new and exciting places he would have never had an opportunity to see otherwise and meeting artists from across the globe. He's been to Turkey, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland, Ireland, Japan and China to name a few countries Demick has toured with the orchestra. His favorite city is Lucerne, Switzerland, an architecturally Medieval-looking community on a lake set between snow-capped mountains. The city has an amazing concert hall, Demick noted.

Advice: For people interested in working in stage setting and design, Demick suggests finding one facet of the work to specialize in: audio, lighting, rigging, etc. Honing a specialty will make a person more employable. Demick also said a person entering the field needs to practice patience and then practice it some more: the nature of the work is specific and artists can be particular about what they need to deliver their best work.

"Of course, I did none of this," Demick said about his advice.

"It was different then, it was more hands-on. Really, though, when it comes down to it the job is, 'I lift things up and put them down.'"

Suggest people to interview for this column by sending recommendations to kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com.