1st Infantry Division Band brightens holiday season with free concert

By By Dena O’Dell
1st Infantry Division PAO

News story photo
Photo credit: Photo by Dena O'Dell
Sgt. Jeff Miller and Sgt. Renatta Draper, both vocalists for the 1st Infantry Division Band, perform "Winter Wonderland," during the 1st Infantry Division Band performance at Kansas State University Friday, Dec. 14.
FORT RILEY, Kansas. -- Despite a forecast of four to six inches of snowfall, the 1st Infantry Division Band played a mixture of “jazzy” holiday favorites to a receptive audience Friday night at McCain Auditorium in Manhattan. About 565 people attended Friday night’s free performance, filling the lower level of the auditorium to near capacity.

As the snow began to blanket the area outside the auditorium, the inside of McCain became a safe haven for Families, many of whom have been without power since the Dec. 10 ice storm which swept across North Central Kansas.

Sharon Estes and her two children, Sarah and Diego, were among several Fort Riley Families attending the concert who have been without power for four days. Sharon’s husband, Spc. Brandon Estes, is currently deployed to Iraq.

“This was beautiful, relaxing and out of the (past week’s) normal routine,” Sharon said about the concert.

Brig. Gen. Keith C. Walker, Assistant Division Commander, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, opened the concert, telling Families of deployed Soldiers attending the event that it is because of their loved one's service that Americans enjoy the freedoms that are often taken for granted.

“Among us this evening are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that have seen the faces of war. Among us are wounded Soldiers and Families of the fallen. So I ask each and everyone of you to resist the temptation to worry about your house and to worry about all those things that you haven't yet done for the holiday. Take this much needed rest--take this wonderous gift that we have been offered, the gift of music, thanks to the 1st Infantry Division Band and their talented friends. This band, whose Soldiers represent all those who have shielded us in the past and who shield us today,” Walker said.

This is the second year the 40-member band has performed the holiday concert at McCain Auditorium since the band’s return from Germany in August 2006.

The band performed a mixture of vocal and instrumental holiday favorites including “Winter Wonderland” and “Let it Snow,” sung by vocalists Sgt. Renatta Draper and Sgt. Jeff Miller, and “O Holy Night” and a jazzy version of “Santa Baby,” both sung by Shannon DelBorrell, wife of Capt. Michael DelBorrell of Company B, 610th Brigade Support Battalion.

During the second half of the concert, students from Kansas State University’s dance department performed three scenes from Tchaikovsky’s famed “Nutcracker” ballet.

Sarah Estes, 8, commented her favorite part of the concert was watching the ballet dancers, while her brother, Diago, said the whole concert was ‘delicious.’

The band’s resident “Grinch”—vocalist and pianist Spc. Andrew Dwight of Burbank, Calif.—received several laughs from the audience when he got into character for his rendition of the holiday favorite, “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch.” This is the second year Dwight has performed the tune at the concert, which was a favorite of attendees Tre Byers, 9, and Ty Shuler, 8, both of Manhattan.

Filling in as master of ceremonies for WIBW-TV news anchor Ralph Hipp, who was unable to attend due to the weather, was First Sgt. Allen Freeman, the band’s former First Sergeant. Toward the concert’s end, Freeman made himself cozy in a chair by the onstage Christmas tree and read the treasured Christmas story, “T’was the Night Before Christmas.”

An added treat for concert goers toward the end of the event was a visit from Santa Claus, who led the audience in a holiday sing-a-long of “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bells,” and “We Wish You A Merry Christmas.”

While a video screen projected images of deployed Soldiers in the background, Draper, along with several of the band’s other vocalists, closed out the show with a heart rendering rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”

According to Chief Warrant Officer W. Scott MacDonald, 1st Infantry Division Band commander and conductor, the concert—one of the largest band events of the year—was a tremendous success. The band has been planning the concert for one year and rehearsing almost daily for the past six weeks.

“We had a great crowd. Even with the weather being bad, we we’re still half-full. I don’t think the general public or even regular Soldiers realize what it’s like to pull off an event like this,” MacDonald said. “Pulling it all together with the recent ice storm has been a definite challenge, especially coordinating all the logistics, but K-State has probably been one of the most professional groups I have had to work with. They have been tremendous—from the ticket office, to management of auditorium to technical directors that are there—they are very professional.”


Alison Kohler, Media Relations (785) 240-1893

Release Number 021-12-07

December 16, 2007

Public Affairs Office
1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley
Fort Riley, Kan.
Telephone (785) 239-3410/240-1893
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