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July 28, 2014

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Music resonates in his family

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Steve Marcus

Optometrist Bill Carpi has played the baritone saxophone in UNLV’s pep band for more than 20 years. His three adult children also perform in the band.

Back in his days at UNLV, Bill Carpi was torn between music and optometry. Music was creative and fun, but his dad was an optometrist and he would pass along the practice when his son was ready.

Carpi covered his bets and studied both music and pre-medicine from 1967 to 1970. Then he headed to Southern California for his optometry degree.

But he never relinquished his saxophone.

For more than 20 years, Carpi has been playing music at UNLV basketball games, as part of the school’s pep band. To use his words, he’s the 300-pound old guy with the gray hair playing the sax.

They play rock and jazz during game breaks, and they really nail “Viva Las Vegas.” Over, and over, and over again.

Carpi also has performed with the UNLV Community Concert Band since its inception in 1987. It has no pretensions, but its 85 musicians take enough pride in their music to rehearse Wednesday nights.

Their idea of a fun gig is to play at the arts festival up in Mesquite or at the Italian-American Club in Summerlin. They’re booked for the Memorial Day picnic program at Southern Highlands.

Carpi recruited his three music-playing children for the pep band 15 years ago when Dad was playing at a Lady Rebels game for the first time, and the band was light on musicians. Today, the now-adult children still play in the pep band when their schedules allow and two of them are in the community band — 29-year-old Melissa, a concierge at Wynn Las Vegas who plays clarinet, and 21-year-old Deborah, a third-year percussion performance major at UNLV.

And that brings us to what may be Carpi’s most important performance in years.

“Deborah is coming up on her performance recital, and it’s always hard to draw an audience to them,” Carpi said. “You’ve got to have a hook to draw people outside your own family.”

Her hook: Get Dad to play with her.

The recital will run about 40 minutes as Deborah performs on various instruments, including timpani and vibraphone.

She also found a marimba-alto sax duet for her and Dad. As she performs her rifts on the marimba, the sax will provide a relaxing melody, Deborah said.

“I’m her gimmick,” Bill Carpi said. “I’m nervous, but not as nervous as she is.”

Deborah may be nervous, but not for the reason Dad thinks.

“It means a lot to me for him to play. He’s the one who got me into music and it’s a big part of our lives. His being in my recital is my tribute to him.

“Now I’ve got to get him to sit down and practice.”

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