Youngstown native lands gig with NFL
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At age 9, David Perrico left his house with a clarinet, the same instrument his father played. He came home with a trumpet.
“Kirkmere Elementary didn’t have a trumpet players,” he said.
That horn became the Youngstown native’s ticket to touring internationally with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, to playing many of Las Vegas’ biggest casinos and working with such stars as Gladys Knight and Toni Braxton.
Now it’s taking him to the NFL.
The 1988 Chaney High School and 2002 Dana School of Music graduate is the leader and arranger for the house band at Allegiant Stadium, the new home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The ensemble, which will be known as David Perrico and the Raider Band or David Perrico and the Raider House Band (“We’re still working on the branding,” he said), made its debut last Saturday at the team’s first exhibition game.
The band will get a national audience for its regular season debut. The home opener on Sept. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens is the “Monday Night Football” game that week.
In a telephone interview from his home in Nevada, Perrico talked about the people who influenced his career path. That started with his music teachers in Youngstown schools — James Ramsey at Kirkmere, Bill Gonda at Volney Rogers and Joe Danko at Chaney High School.
It continued when he went to Dana School of Music, particularly Esotto Pellegrini (who Perrico started taking lessons with when he was 13 years old) and Tony Leonardi.
“For anyone getting into the music business, you have to be a jack of all trades,” Perrico said. “That’s the one thing Pellegrini always told me. He instilled that in me when I was 15, 16. Jazz, classical, Latin, all styles, play a little piano, arranging, business — I got all that from Pellegrini and Tony Leonardi. He taught real world experience.”
Perrico, 50, was a semester away from graduation when he decided to leave school to tour with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, a gig that started as a summer job in 1994 and lasted until 2001.
“With my education at YSU, I felt like I was really prepared with the Dorsey band,” he said.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks disrupted the touring industry, Perrico decided to go back to school and finish his bachelor’s degree at Dana. Then he was offered a chance to earn his master’s degree at University of Nevada Las Vegas and get paid to teach while doing it.
He also started performing on the Vegas strip, backing acts like Donny and Marie Osmond and Natalie Cole and playing in the band for such shows as Cirque du Soleil, “The Rat Pack Is Back” and “Phantom of the Opera.”
Perrico soon went from musician to band leader, creating Pop Strings Orchestra (a 14-piece band with a seven-piece, all female string section), Pop Evolution (a 19-piece ensemble) and other groups.
When Paul Shaffer, best known as band leader on “Late Show with David Letterman,” was putting together his own Las Vegas show, he hired Perrico as his band leader, which is a ringing endorsement of his abilities.
All of those experiences prepared Perrico when the Raiders’ organization began its search for a house band.
“Owner Mark Davis, it was really his decision having live music at the game,” Perrico said. “When he was growing up, the (Oakland) Raiders had a band in the ’60s conducted by Del Courtney. It really came from Mark Davis, from the top.”
The team gave Perrico a list of songs — “Autumn Wind,” the team’s official song; the “Imperial Death March” from “Star Wars”; hits by Bruno Mars, Tower of Power, Chicago, Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind & Fire” — and he created arrangements of varying lengths, from 1-minute cuts that could be played during time outs to longer renditions.
Perrico and his band was offered the job Aug. 6, about a week before that first exhibition game.
The band will do a 45-minute pregame show before each home game and also will be heard throughout the game during commercial breaks and timeouts. There’s a core set up-tempo, rousing numbers that will be part of the regular repertoire, and Perrico said he expects to create new arrangements for the 19-piece band throughout the season. He’s already working on a version of the “Monday Night Football” theme for the home opener.
Perrico and the band will play for 65,000 fans at each home game, and viewers watching on television are sure to hear snippets of the band. He’s not sure what impact that will have on his other gigs.
“I have no expectations other than to deliver each game and do a great job for the Raider nation and Mark Davis and all of the Raiders’ fans. If something else comes out of it, that’s fantastic.”
Las Vegas still hasn’t fully recovered from the shutdowns cause by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Perrico said he hopes the media attention the band is getting in Las Vegas will translate into more musicians being called back to work in that city.
“I hope they see the value of live band, live entertainment. This is 100-percent live — no tapes, no click tracks. I hope it sparks some excitement for all those hard-working musicians grinding in the lounges and reminds everyone of the validity and value of live music.”