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Songs of Summer

Alumnus is a longtime volunteer at Tanglewood
Story Series
Bridgewater Magazine

If you asked Dave Harding about what he loves, there would be, of course, Lynne, his wife of 57 years. He also looks back fondly over a long career as a well-respected math teacher at Milton High School. And then there’s classical music, and his favorite place to hear it: Tanglewood, a world-class outdoor venue located in the towns of Lenox and Stockbridge that is the summer home of the Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

That latter passion is what led Mr. Harding, along with his wife, to devote more than four decades of summers to volunteering at Tanglewood, often logging more than 100 hours per season.

The Hardings began volunteering as ushers in 1980. The summer gig provided complete immersion in the world of classical music – for free, no less (of course their work as ushers counts as something). The experience must have been to their liking, for they’ve been back every summer since, except for the COVID summer of 2020.

“When we started, we knew very little about classical music, but we learned gradually,” Mr. Harding said.

That learning has taken place every summer as the couple returned to the famed music shed. They became regulars that Tanglewood came to count on. And in 1984, when there was an opening, the venue hired Mr. Harding as assistant head usher. “They were looking for someone who was there a lot, and my wife and I were there for every single concert,” he said. Eventually, the more physical aspects of the job became too much, and he returned, in 2015, to the ranks of volunteer usher.

The Brockton native graduated from the city’s high school in 1958. He earned two degrees from Bridgewater State and spent most of his career at Milton High, retiring in 1999. His last decade on the job, Mr. Harding served as the math department chair.

As for the Tanglewood connection, it was simply a byproduct of the Harding’s burgeoning love of classical music and the fact that, as public school teachers (Lynne Harding taught French and history at Randolph High School) they had summers off. The couple lived in Braintree then, but eventually bought a second home in Egremont, not far from Tanglewood. (They now live in Pittsfield and split their time between that Western Massachusetts city and St. Petersburg, Florida.)

Mr. Harding has fond memories of his time at Bridgewater State, where he majored in math and chemistry. “I knew I was going to have to commute and had to pay for my education myself,” he recalled. “Bridgewater was reasonably priced, and I had a few friends going there I could commute with.” Classmate Bob Eaton was the friend he rode and studied with back then.

The school laid the foundation for the rest of his life, Mr. Harding said. “Going to Bridgewater really opened up a lot of doors and opportunities for me,” he said. “The education at Bridgewater was excellent, and the preparation we got was top-notch.”

While Mr. Harding listened to rock music in his student days, he was, in time, drawn to the finer strains of classical. It all began many years ago, after he and his wife traveled to Boston to see a Metropolitan Opera production of Don Giovanni. “We loved it and started investigating classical music and opera. We were soon hooked. I can’t imagine life without it now,” he said.

Next came regular visits to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and eventually to summers in Western Massachusetts. At Tanglewood in 1980 during a presentation the couple attended, then-head usher, Harry Steadman, asked if anyone in the crowd would like to volunteer. The Hardings stepped forward and have never looked back.

Their time volunteering at Tanglewood gave the couple the chance to see such classical music legends as Leonard Bernstein and Yo-Yo Ma, among many others. No less important, through their Tanglewood connection they began making interesting friends. “Once we got involved with Tanglewood, there were retired teachers and businessmen and lawyers, and we found that when we worked with them, we had a lot in common, and we made so many lifelong friends. We just became one big family,” Mr. Harding said.

Indeed, the couple is so much a part of the fabric of Tanglewood, they’ve even raised money to sponsor two Tanglewood Music Center fellowships.

The Hardings may have just wrapped up another season at Tanglewood, but they are already looking forward to next summer. After more than four decades, the charm of the bucolic surroundings, the world-class music and all the friends they’ve made still provide a powerful draw. “My wife is already talking about hitting the 50-year mark,” Mr. Harding said.

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