FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Nov. 19, 2018) -- The 10th Mountain Division (LI) Band is preparing to spread some "joy to the world" with three holiday concerts in December.

The band will perform "Dear Santa ... An Evening of Classic Holiday Music" Dec. 1 at Carthage High School, Dec. 4 at Clayton Opera House and Dec. 6 at Watertown High School. Each concert starts at 7 p.m. and are free, and open to the public, but the Clayton Opera House is a ticketed event through the box office at www.claytonoperahouse.com or by calling (315) 686-2200.

While the free concerts may seem like a gift to community members, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Daniel Parker, band commander, said it is more of a "thank you" for their continuing support.

"We have very strong ties to the communities in the area, and we wanted to do something fun to give back to our neighbors," he said. "The holidays can oftentimes be stressful and busy for a lot of people, and we just wanted to provide a little entertainment and perform for them. It's going to be a lot of fun."

The "Dear Santa" concept revolves around real letters to Santa that will be read during the concert, and each message relates to the song being performed. Parker said that the musicians are performing in a pop orchestra format, somewhat smaller than a big band orchestra.

"So, a lot of the music you're going to hear is geared toward that style," he said. "You'll hear some classic pieces and some pop and modern-day holiday tunes - both vocal and instrumental."

The set includes songs such as "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," "Christmas Time is Here," "It Must Have Been Ol' Santa Claus" and "Let It Snow, Let It Snow."

Parker said that most Army bands normally perform one big holiday concert for the community. The 10th Mountain Division Band has not had that opportunity in recent years, primarily due to deployments and so they were limited to smaller engagements.

"In previous years, the band has been either deployed or preparing to deploy, and so there wasn't the time to put this level of production together in time, or rather, to do it justice," he said.

Parker said that they began constructing the holiday program in August. The musicians have practiced separately in sections before conducting their first full runthrough on Nov. 15. This allows the band and sound technicians hear the narration and practice transitions between songs.

Sgt. Joshua Bennett, who serves as the operations noncommissioned officer, plays trombone in the horn section and he has worked with the band commander on the creation of the concert series.

"The vision really comes from the commander, and we collaborated a little on the production, but mostly I'm just executing his vision and making sure the band rehearsals go smoothly," Bennett said.

Band members are constantly performing throughout the year - from change of command and welcome home ceremonies to monthly observances, educational outreach and community parades. Bennett said that this is a chance to reach those who haven't been able to participate in those events.

"Doing a holiday concert for the public is great, because we get to represent the division for people who don't normally associate with the military," he said. "We get to give back to the public who has supported the Army for so long, and so it's really exciting for us to perform for them."

Sgt. Michelle Dykes is one of four vocalists who will perform in the concert series.

"I am very excited to perform for the communities," she said. "For me, this gets me into the holiday spirit, and I hope it does for everyone else too."

Dykes said that the song she likes singing the most is "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."

"It's a lot of fun to sing, and I think a lot of the audience members will enjoy it," she said.

Sgt. William Wallace gets to rock out on guitar and vocals with the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band classic "Santa Claus is Comin' To Town" and U2's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - the latter being his personal favorite to perform.

"I think these concerts are a great opportunity to show the community what we do as an Army band," he said. "A lot of the time, they see us performing at the ceremonial events, so this gives us a chance to showcase different styles of music - jazz, pop, rock, contemporary pieces - all together in the framework of holiday music that everyone knows and loves."