Holiday sounds: 1st Armored Division Band rings in season with concert

By Wendy Brown
Fort Bliss Bugle Staff

News story photo
Photo credit: Wendy Brown, Fort Bliss Bugle Staff
The 1st Armored Division band performs the National Anthem during “An American Holiday Festival” at Stayton Theater Sunday.
There is only one person who could take the conductor’s baton from Capt. Richard Winkels during the 1st Armored Division Band’s holiday performance, and that’s Santa Claus.

Winkels, the band’s commander, graciously handed it over to him during the band’s “An American Holiday Festival” performance at the Stayton Theater Sunday, and the jolly old elf proceeded to conduct the band for one last song – dancing onstage as he did so.

Santa’s appearance was not the only surprise. Earlier, as vocalist Pfc. Joseph Leveston hit the lowest of the low notes in “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” the Grinch himself reared his ugly head on stage. He even had the nerve to kick Leveston in the seat of his pants.

Leveston was one of more than 40 band members who performed in the show, which included a Saturday evening performance. The band performed a variety of Christmas and holiday standards, as well as a Hanukkah song, the national anthem and an arrangement of the songs of the five branches of the armed forces.

Brig. Gen. Leopoldo A. Quintas, Jr., 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss deputy commanding general, support, hosted Sunday’s event, and welcomed everyone to the performance.

“Holiday music is an opportunity for all of us to reflect on what matters most and to remember those who can’t be with us to share in the festivities this year,” Quintas said. “Let us honor and remember more than 1,500 Fort Bliss Soldiers currently deployed across the world, protecting our nation’s freedoms and our way of life.”

In an interview before the performance, Winkels said the concert’s primary purpose is to bring everyone together to celebrate the holiday season.

“That’s always our goal with this,” said Winkels. “We want to bring not just the Fort Bliss community, but the El Paso community, together and display what it is we do on the stage.”

It is important people know the band represents more than itself while on stage, Winkels said.

“At that time, we’re Iron Soldiers representing Iron Soldiers,” Winkels said. “It’s more than just the 1st AD Band on the stage. We’re encompassing the division.”

Toward that end, the band included information about the history of the Army and the band on a screen above the stage. In addition, the band showed short, funny clips from holiday movies and specials, such as A Charlie Brown Christmas.

“The whole point is to have a good laugh – for people to enjoy what they’re doing,” Winkels said.

Spc. Megan Grieder, clarinet player, 1st AD Band, said the show includes a wide variety of music, and it’s a good show for adults and children alike.

“There are always some surprises we add in there,” said Grieder. “It’s a really great program.”

Leveston, who performed seven songs during the event, (including three duets with Sgt. Andrea Griffith), said he always enjoys watching the show come together.

“We’re here every morning and we have rehearsals with individual instruments,” Leveston said. “All the woodwinds will be together. All the brass will be together. I think it’s really great when we all come together and it all gels and meshes and becomes the show that the public ends up seeing.”

Winkels said he did not think the performance would disappoint audience members, and he was right. They gave the band not one, but two standing ovations.

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