Theater tech students at Camden Hills Regional High School, hard at work on the design and construction of the set for the school’s fall musical, “Phantom of the Opera,” are benefiting from several Youth Arts-funded workshops and residencies.

As part of the Youth Arts funding package, professionals in the areas of backdrop design, lighting and sound design, scenery construction, makeup and hair styling and scenic design have been working with Camden Hills students to create the lavish world of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom.” Among the mentors is Brandon Koons, a 2005 graduate of Camden Hills. Koons completed a degree in design/technology from Boston’s Emerson College in 2009 and currently is the design technology instructor at Rockland’s Midcoast School of Technology. Koons also has provided lighting design for Northport Music Theater.

Youth Arts funding enabled a group of 10 Camden Hills s students to attend a series of workshops on scenic design presented by Koons at the school throughout the summer. Koons also has been working closely with Hannah Wells, a junior at Camden Hills, who was given the role of lead set designer on “Phantom.”

Guided by Rick Ash, Camden Hills’ drama tech director and manager of the high school’s Strom Auditorium, Camden Hills tech students actually began work on “Phantom” over the summer. Because the play is as much about the spectacular scenic design and lighting as it is a production filled with hauntingly beautiful music, Ash wanted his crew to get a head start on the complex set design, as well as have the opportunity to work with Koons and the other visiting technicians.

“As usual, we’ve got so much talent behind the scenes,” said Ash. “With such an enthusiastic group, it was a thrill for me to bring back former students like Brandon to share their expertise on this production. The generous support of Youth Arts has made that possible.”

Koons said he is enjoying being back at Camden Hills.

“I feel so fortunate to have come through the program here. By allowing us to do our own design work and learn from our mistakes rather than learn solely through observation, Mr. Ash actually accelerated our learning process and gave us an incredible breadth of experience to draw on after graduation. I know it’s given me a terrific advantage out in the working world and it feels great to come back here and share what I’ve learned with the kids,” Koons said.

Koons began teaching in the graphic arts program at Midcoast School of Technology in 2010 and is excited about the opportunity. He said he is in the enviable position of creating his own program from scratch.

“While the central concept is design, I can customize it to some extent to meet the needs of individual students, based on whatever that student is most passionate about. That’s important. I was fortunate to discover my passion while a student at Camden Hills and I hope to help my students do the same at MCST,” Koons said.

Youth Arts is a private, nonprofit all-volunteer organization that provides arts enrichment in the public schools of Camden, Rockport and the Five Town CSD. For more information, visit “Phantom of the Opera” will run Nov. 10 through 13; and 17 through 19 at Camden Hills’ Strom Auditorium.

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email to