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September 19, 2014

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Six questions for Michael John Pappageorge, Billy Joel tribute artist

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Sam Morris

Michael John Pappageorge, who trains county workers and performs in a Billy Joel tribute band, wrote a song to commemorate Clark County’s 100th birthday.

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  • "Our Centennial" by Michael Pappageorge.
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Close your eyes and you might swear it’s Billy Joel. But it’s not and the lyrics aren’t about New York.

Instead, 46-year-old Michael John Pappageorge is singing about Nevada — Bunkerville, the Mormon fort, atomic blasts, Elton John, the Dunes and Howard Hughes.

Pappageorge works full time training Clark County employees in time management, leadership and customer service. It so happens that his singing voice sounds like the New York crooner’s.

That voice is now attached to “Our Centennial,” a song Pappageorge wrote and recorded two months ago to commemorate Clark County’s 100th birthday. The 37-line song, with a six-line refrain, presents a thumbnail sketch of Clark County history back to 1909.

The county plans to run the song on Cox Cable channel 4 with a photo and video montage and will bury a copy of the song in a time capsule in December.

Pappageorge’s first taste of performing came when he was a UNLV financial administration major and he sang “You May Be Right” at a bar near campus. His 7-piece tribute band plays Saturday at the Starbright Theatre in Sun City Summerlin.

Do weekend gigs overshadow your day job?

Actually, I wouldn’t trade my job for anything. Training people is such a positive experience.

Not even for a record contract?

There was a time when I was about 30 that I was writing, I had a guy take me to L.A. to meet people. I enjoyed the writing but hated the business. It took the fun out of it.

What did you want to convey in the Clark County song?

That we’ve come a long way in 100 years. It’s a celebration of our history and a celebration of how far this city and this county has come.

Valley residents tend to be a little blase about Las Vegas. Do you think they will embrace the song?

That’s the biggest challenge about living here. People don’t have a connection with each other and the area.

My favorite example is when Andre Agassi won Wimbledon. That should have been a huge celebration. If he was from Milwaukee, born and raised, can you imagine what people there would have done? But that didn’t happen here.

How long did it take to write this song?

I had to get the creative juices going. But once I did, about 10 minutes.

Why Billy Joel?

He’s the reason I started playing piano. His voice, his range, his songs — none of it is a stretch for me. I couldn’t do Michael Jackson.

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