Born of Sand and Fire With Union HS

Born of Sand and Fire With Union HS

By Mikey McGuire


The Percussion Scholastic Open class was full of unique shows this year, and one of the most unique among them came to Dayton by way of Union HS and their 2023 production “Born of Sand and Fire.” With a striking stained glass window-inspired tarp, large stained-glass window backdrops, and a pit setup meant to emulate the pews of a church, Union HS made its mark in 2023.

Their 2023 production explores themes of beauty being born from chaos. The show was designed by Visaudio Designs, but one of the more memorable sections of the production was created by ensemble director Garett Dwyer.


The middle section of the production sees four vibraphones being pushed to the center of the tarp for a small ensemble vibe solo.


“So that whole vibraphone part where the kids go into the middle of the floor and play in the circle, that was not a part of the show at all,” Dwyer said. “I wrote the whole middle part, probably the middle two minutes of the show. Everything at the beginning and the end of it was Brian’s [Visaudios] music.”


As with any show, “Born of Sand and Fire” was an immensely collaborative process between Dwyer and his team.


“For the actual production value and the story boarding of the show, that was pretty much in-house between me and a couple of my coworkers, Danny Cole and Travis Smith,” Dwyer said. “We also had a really great drill designer, Richard Hinshaw. When he came into the picture, he really helped us create a story out of the show and what we were doing already.”

Another striking element of the show was the ever-present LED fire pit at the back corner of the tarp serving as the “fire” in “Born of Sand and Fire”. On the other side of the tarp, there laid four stained-glass window printed backdrops. While the tarp dressing was lighter than some other groups in class, Union HS made the most of it and made their floor dressing work hand in hand with their theme.

“I created the window props in Photoshop and ordered all the stuff for that,” Dwyer said. “It was a good mixture of in-house and outsourcing when we weren’t able to do it in-house. With the LEDs, we have a great band director, Charles Pisarra. He helped me figure out the ins and outs of making that dream come true. I found the YouTube video and did my own research on how to find the parts, and he helped the dads with the wiring.”

At the end of the day, the students themselves had to perform the show, and with a production this busy, some boxes had to be checked before getting down to the nitty-gritty of performance value.

“The performance quality came very late in the season,” Dwyer said. “It was a lot of figuring out the hands to the feet. Once we finally got the show down, we had to put in the costume changes and two different drum slips in the show. We had all sorts of crazy stuff.”


“So, once we got all that nailed down, we could really focus on the performative aspect.” Dwyer said. “We had some really great clinics with our choreographer, Cat Fowler. She led some acting classes, and we sent all the parents out, so it was just us. It was really great. We dimmed the lights and put on some music. Once we started doing that, then they became the show.”


Union HS and their 2023 production “Born of Sand and Fire” came second in Percussion Scholastic Open with a finals night score of 96.775, and it certainly won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

About the Author:


Mikey McGuire has marched 3 seasons of WGI percussion, First playing cymbals with Crystal Lake Thunder out of Crystal Lake, Illinois in 2018. He moved on to Pi Percussion out of Romeoville, Illinois in 2019 and 2020, also playing cymbals. Mikey also writes for as well as his personal blog