What do the the movie London Has Fallen, the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and North Woods Law have in common? They all featured the work of a graduate from Messalonskee’s performing arts program. The access to quality arts education offered in music and theater at Messalonkee has enabled numerous alumni to go on to perform, work, and teach in arts fields later in life, passing on their love for the performing arts in multiple ways.
Phil McGowan, a 2006 graduate responsible for helping design the Music Production studio and the concept of the music production class, graduated from Berklee School of Music in Boston with his audio engineering degree. After touring with a band for a couple of years, he moved to Los Angeles and eventually began working for composer, Trevor Morris. The movie, London Has Fallen, opened in theaters at the beginning of March. Phil mixed and produced the score for this box office hit.
With a hit of her own at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Shannon Thurston (2005), who was involved in both the music and theater program at MHS, recently obtained her degree in Musical Theater Performance from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. While there she wrote, directed, and starred in an original musical called Women of William that debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and garnered four star reviews from The Herald, Broadway Baby and the Edinburgh Review. Shannon has also performed as a singer and actress in many places in Maine, New York, the UK, and even Zambia.
Going from the stage to the silver screen is MHS Players 2008 alumnus Jared Boghosian, who currently lives in LA and is working as an actor and filmmaker. When asked about the impact the Messalonskee performing arts program had on his career, he stated, “I wouldn’t be nearly as professional, I wouldn’t be nearly as disciplined, and I certainly wouldn’t be as ambitious as I am today. I’ve been on television screens and movie screens, cell phone screens, all sorts of screens, and owe all of that to Messalonskee theatre.” Some of the work Boghosian has done has been in collaboration with 2009 graduate, Logen Petersen who recently opened an office for his production company, Stormlight Pictures on MusicRow in Nashville. Stormlight Production has done work in television and cinema, and produced promotional work for major artists such as Martina Mcbride and Luke Bryan.
Dave Lovejoy(2006) is another graduate of the MHS arts programs who works as a reality television field producer/shooter and is currently in the North Slope of Alaska working on a National Geographic show called Life Below Zero. His past credits include work on Maine based North Woods Law. “I love what I do and the MHS arts department including the video club and theatre department helped get me started on this path,” said Lovejoy.
Sheridan Ellis, a 2004 graduate who was heavily involved in band, chorus, and theater during his time at MHS. “I credit much of my musical performance foundation to the MHS Music program, and the MHS theatre program,” said Ellis, who recently opened his own music school, Mountain Road Music in York, Maine, and has performed as a guitarist and songwriter in 16 states and recorded 4 albums. He credits music teachers Kevin Rhein, Andy Forster and Gerry Wright with his appreciation of music and his “discipline to strive for excellence,” and praises the MHS Players Drama club for helping him become a true performer and be more comfortable on stage. “I’m incredibly lucky to have been a part of both programs,” said Ellis.
Several Messalonskee graduates have gone on to spread the love of music and performance to a whole new generation of students. Ryan Brown (2010) is a high school choir director at Wachusett Regional High School in Holden, Ma and is going to be part of a Boston-based professional project choir called Voices 21 C. Jordan Seavey (2001) works as the High School Band and Chorus Director at Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge in NY. He also does work as a composer, arranger and classical piano performer. Joshua Bickford (1993) has recently returned to RSU 18 after more than a decade of teaching music in New Jersey. We are fortunate to have him now teaching general music and chorus in the China schools. Also returning to RSU 18 is former chorus and theater student Margaux Depue (2007) who has re-joined the Messalonskee Players as the group’s newest director.
These are merely a few of MHS graduates that have found careers in the arts due to the strong start they were given in RSU 18. More recent alumni are also continuing the tradition of spreading their love of the arts. Jonah Webb who graduated in 2015 recently started an a cappella group in the middle of the ocean, during his Semester at Sea, and the 2016 graduating class has several students continuing their education in the fields of music and theater arts.
What all these students have in common besides their love of the performing arts, is involvement in the robust Arts programs at MHS which see an enrollment of over 100 in band and chorus classes and 40 to 60 students a season in the after school theater program. Darby Martin (2014), who is majoring in Music Education at Gordon College, shared that, “Because of the music and theater programs at MHS I found my voice. I’m pursuing a degree in music education and intend to give future generations the musical and theatrical education and the opportunities that I received”.
Jennifer Cole Fortin (1992) began a teaching career that brought her to Texas and then back to Maine as the band director at Edward Little HS. She currently is the band and orchestra director at Skowhegan Area High School.
Nia (Rhein) Passmore (2006) went on to receive her Bachelor of Sacred Music at Westminster Choir College and earned her Master’s degrees in Early Renaissance Performance practices at York University and Creative Writing at St. John University in England. She currently works as a Music Teacher and Early Music performer in the UK.
Justin Jones (2001 )received his music education degree from USM and then moved to Massachusetts to teach in the Revere Public Schools and Summit Studios. He currently is the band director in the Saugus Public Schools.
Tarra Haskell(2005) is a published author and playwright in Portland, Maine. She has participated in the annual Portland Fringe Theatre festival as an actress and as a playwright with original pieces.
Natasha Knight (2008) lives in Yosemite Village California and is one half of alternative indie group Yossi & Natasha.
Dominique Colizzi (2011) is currently touring out of Nashville, Tennessee in a musical presentation with an anti- bullying theme.
Matthew Haney(2013)currently makes a living building sets for the Ogunquit Players, a skill he first learned during his time with the Messalonskee Players.
Megan McAvoy’s(2014) well rounded arts experience in the music program, visual arts classes, and the after school drama program in set and poster design led to her pursuit a 4 year Game Art and Animation degree at Champlain College in Burlington VT.