Marching band show brings designer back to Greencastle

Shawn Hardy
Show designer Duane DeWire is working with the Greencastle-Antrim High School marching band on ‘Les Miserables’ — 40 years after he wrote his first show, also for the G-AHS marching band, then directed by David J. McCandless.

Duane DeWire was a 17-year-old member of the Hanover Lancers Drum and Bugle Corps when he wrote the script for his first band show. It was for the Greencastle-Antrim High School marching band, then directed by David J. McCandless.

Forty years later, DeWire is back at G-A as the creator of the 2017 show “Les Miserables,” directed by Robert Bennett.

DeWire and others who worked with Bennett at Spring-Ford High School are in town helping instruct a growing G-A group of musicians during band camp this week. Under their leadership, Spring-Ford was a Tournament of Bands champion.

DeWire, a Northumberland resident who with his wife owns a barbershop in Selinsgrove, is under contract with six bands this year and will return to G-A Monday nights throughout the fall.

Bennett came to G-A High School as band director just before school started last year when the marching season show was already in the works. This is his first year building from scratch.

And building is what Bennett wants to do. The marching band has 47 players this year, up from 30 last year. The musicians are joined by the 13-member color guard and are led by drum majors Kaitlyn Bowser and Anessa Reid.

“We teaching the kids how to do my show,” said DeWire. “We making this band look big.”

Tuesday morning, band members were spread out across a parking lot behind the high school practicing the footwork for “Les Miserables” without their instruments, getting critiques, tips and kudos from Bennett, DeWire and their colleagues.

Turn back time

DeWire’s initial connect to Greencastle was Joe Serrill, a G-A biology teacher who was also the color guard adviser. Serrill joined the Lancers to learn more about the field.

“I was in the rifles and he roped me into writing a script,” DeWire, 57, recounted Monday.

DeWire doesn’t remember details about the show, but thinks it included “Crown Imperial” and Barry Manilow’s “I Write the Songs.”

“Forty years ago I stood in this bandroom and Mr. Forney was a student teacher,” he added.

Samuel Forney, who died in November 2013, was at the helm G-AHS band program for 32 years, leading the group to numerous championship titles.

DeWire also is familiar with G-A’s award-winning color guard and its staff as a judge.

“We’re trying to take advantage of the color guard talent and grow the band,” DeWire said.