YSU alum brings the newest big band sound to Vegas

David Perrico - Pop Evolution

YSU alumnus David Perrico, center, with his band Pop Evolution.

Big Band music has always been a passion for David Perrico, so the YSU alumnus feels great about headlining at the iconic Stratosphere Casino, Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas as the leader of an 18-piece band with two singers.

But Perrico – a trumpeter, conductor, composer and Dana School of Music grad – says he won’t be boasting about his new gig.  “I never say that I’ve made it to the big time,” he said. “To me, it’s work. I’m honored and I’m flattered to be here, but it’s just what I do. It’s where the journey has taken me right now.”

His band, “David Perrico – Pop Evolution,” performs popular songs from every genre – from The Beatles to Mötley Crüe to Lady Antebellum – with a uniquely modern, pop-jazz-big band sound. “I’ve got Baby Boomers and kids in their 20s and 30s coming to hear us, and they’re really connecting with the music,” he said.

Every performance is unique. Some include Perrico’s original compositions, occasionally he does a trumpet solo, but the bandleader insists that it’s not about him. “I’ve got some of the best musicians in Vegas in the band, and I try to keep it fun and challenging for them,” he said. “It’s a collective thing, it’s about the music. It’s fun to be on stage with so much talent.”

And he’s proud of the unique arrangement he made with the casino management, giving one-half of all Pop Evolution’s ticket sales revenue to the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, a magnet public high school dedicated to the performing and visual arts. “I feel like it’s a way to give back, to help the kids, and you never know who you’re going to impact.”

As a musician, Perrico has performed with top names such as Donny & Marie, Natalie Cole, Tony Braxton and Gladys Knight, and has 11 CD and four DVD recordings to his credit. His band Pop Evolution has been well received by audiences and critics alike – it was recently voted “Best of Las Vegas” by readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal and was featured on a new Vegas PBS television series, “artScene.”

David PerricoPerrico also serves as music director and arranged all the music for PIN UP, another headlining show at the Stratosphere. He works as a freelance musician for big-name performers whenever he can, and he’s an adjunct instructor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, teaching courses in jazz studies. Another YSU alumnus, Craig Raymaley, ’98 BM, operates a Vegas concert production company and, as Perrico’s manager, helps to coordinate his busy schedule.

In the classroom at UNLV, Perrico likes to share his real world experience. “I give them the point blank reality of what it takes to be a professional musician and earn a living,” he said.

And Perrico has experienced that reality. Growing up on Youngstown’s West Side, he started playing the trumpet at age 9 and began studying three years later with Esotto Pellegrini, a Dana professor and principal trumpet with the Youngstown Symphony. He came to YSU on a scholarship and credits professors Tony Leonardi and Kent Engelhart for creating a program that regularly brought in musical greats, like his idol, Chuck Mangione, to meet and work with students. He was very close to graduating when he got an offer he couldn’t refuse, an opportunity to travel as a musician with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

He spent the next eight years on the road with the band, crisscrossing the country and learning from the other, more seasoned musicians. “Talk about cutting your teeth,” he said with a laugh. “It was tough, living out of a suitcase for 40 to 45 weeks out of a year, but the musical rewards were great.” He had taken another position, traveling the world as an entertainer on an international cruise line, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks forced him to change course again – travel had become difficult and many bookings were canceled.

Perrico went back to YSU, completed his BM in 2002, and then moved to Vegas where he was awarded a graduate assistantship and earned his master’s degree in jazz studies in UNLV in 2006. He’s been teaching there ever since.

The conductor and musician has maintained ties with YSU, and in 2007 his composition, “Fanfare of Light,” was selected to commemorate the university’s Centennial Celebration. But Vegas is home for him now, especially since his mother, brother and sister-in-law have relocated there.

When he’s not working, Perrico likes to get away from the city lights.  He’s drawn to explore Nevada’s scenic terrain. “I don’t have time for gambling and all that stuff,” he said. “I’m out every day, hiking the Red Rock Canyon. That’s where I go to decompress, to recharge.”

(Previously Published in YSU Magazine, Summer 2013)