DORSET >> Long Trail's graduating class of 2016 entered to "Pomp and Circumstance," the traditional march favored by schools at commencement exercises. But it made its recessional to something a little different — "The Imperial March" from Star Wars, also known as "Darth Vader's Theme."
Music occupied a central role in-between the two bookend moments held Saturday afternoon on the school's campus. The independent school's International Baccalaureate music group performed "The First Circle," a progressive jazz composition by guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Lyle Mays, followed later by the 1999 hit song "All Star," by Greg Camp of the group "Smashmouth." That's the one many will remember as telling listeners they were not only all stars but rock stars, and it was time to get their game on. All that glitters is gold, by the way,
Long Trail's graduations differ from the typical commencement program in other ways. Rather than a main commencement address by a speaker, or speeches by class valedictorians and salutatorians, the school invites all of its graduating class members to make a short speech reflecting on their days at the school. They don't necessarily have to be speeches in the traditional sense — Jenna D'Olivo and Anna Wright performed Billy Joel's "Vienna," with D'Olivo on vocals and Wright on piano. Ursula Martin recited a poem by Emily Dickinson.
The 23 members of the class of 2016 in one way or another shared memories, gratitude to parents and teachers, and for their experience at Long Trail, whether it was short or long, which helped them make it to this point and prepared them for experiences yet to come.
Emily Barilone said that even though she had only attended the independent school for the past two years, it had helped make her a better person.
"I have crazy friends I have laughed with, learned with and done some things with that unfortunately we don't have time to discuss at this moment," she said to a round of laughter.
Hunter Campbell, another graduating senior, said that over the past six years he has attended Long Trail, the school had helped him find his passions in life. Being one of the student ambassadors had been an important experience for him, he said.
"Being a member of the group really helped me to see what I loved about the school," he said. So did his involvement in the school's International Baccalaureate program, an academically rigorous international program which prepares graduates for challenging coursework at the college level. Long Trail was the first school in Vermont to be accredited for and offer an IB program.
"After two years of intensity, I think I can handle anything life has to throw at me," Campbell added.
John Giering recalled class trips and standing in the rain when hearing their cast had won the state one-act festival in 2014. He also recalled a trip to Germany where he and some of his classmates encountered a group of students from Toronto, and thanking them for Neil Young and the rock group "Rush." The Canadian students told them they could keep Justin Bieber, who is also originally from Canada.
Bethany Marsfelder shared that she had thought long and hard about what she was going to say in her graduation speech when the moment came, going back and forth between whether to strike a funny or serious note. She structured her talk as a story, centered on the other students she had come to know during her seven years at the school. Long Trail School, which opened in 1975, offers instruction from grades 6-12.
"These people," she said, referring to her classmates, "were some of the most creative, inspirational welcoming people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. These people have stuck together through thick and thin, made it through good times and bad, and above all else, impacted me in a way I'll never be able to thank them enough for."
Martha Phelps wrote a letter to her younger self, the one who was just starting out at Long Trail several years earlier. Everything would work out, and adversities, like missing an entire soccer season her junior year to a knee injury, would be overcome, she told herself.
They would all lead her towards discovering her true passion — helping others, which would lead to a project aiding 100 children born in poverty, she said.
"So don't try to change anything ... You will learn from every event and become stronger because of it. You will do great things in your future. Just you wait," she said.
Following the speeches and an address from Isaac Krasney, a member of the class of 2007 and the president of the school's alumni association, who urged the newest members of the group to stay in touch with the school and find ways to help other students who would be following in their footsteps, the long awaited moment arrived when the diplomas were handed out,
The school also distributed several awards during its commencement exercises. Ashley Bushee took home the Barb West Award. The Student Ambassadors Debby Brown Award went to Aisha Navarete. The Student Life Pay It Forward Award was presented to Eli Sanderson. The National Honor society David and Renee Wilson Award went to Corey Davis. The Dorothy Pierce Faculty Award was presented to Colleen Fiore.