At the heart of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, is the Lee and Thomas Beam Music Center. It houses studios, rehearsal rooms and a music library.
Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the music center is the Doc Rando Recital Hall, named for Dr. Arturo Rando-Grillot, a former jazz musician and Las Vegas physician.
Rando’s significance to UNLV spawned from a friendship with Thomas Beam, who wrote in his will that $2 million be donated to the music school upon his death , according to Ken Hanlon, music theory professor and director of the Arnold Shaw Popular Music Research Center.
“Dr. (Robert) Maxson (UNLV President at the time) had convinced (Beam) to give $2 million to the business school, but he wanted to give his money to the music school because of his work with Doc,” Hanlon said. “Because of the close relationship between these two men, Donna (Beam, Thomas’ daughter) decided the recital hall should be named not with Doc’s full name but with the name everyone knew him by.”
Rando, who celebrated his 102nd birthday this year, is a Louisiana native who grew up playing clarinet, saxophone and other instruments before going to medical school and becoming a practicing physician in Las Vegas for more than 20 years. Hanlon said Rando played with several jazz groups, most notably alongside Bob Crosby, Bing Crosby’s brother, and the Bob Cats. His first love, however, was music, and Rando enjoyed sharing this passion with others.
“(Beam and Rando) would sit around and listen to tapes Doc made over the years,” Hanlon said. “Doc recorded all the music for every (track), and Mr. Beam liked that about him.”
The Beam family liked Rando so much that, according to Jeffrey Koep, dean of UNLV’s College of Fine Arts, he was included in the plans for building the recital hall.
“When the gift (of the center) was received from the Beam family, they appointed Doc to work with the plans,” Koep said. “Doc’s involvement was adding common sense, and he’s an indispensable asset to the building.”
The Doc Rando Recital Hall and the Lee and Thomas Beam Music Center opened in 2001, and the hall has been the host site for student performances, musicians and artists from throughout the world. Koep said it makes sense for a space that houses such performances to be named for a man who made a profound impact on UNLV’s fine arts department and the community.
“You can’t find a better person you could name that hall after,” Koep said. “What he amassed in his life was this renaissance performance of music, art and education. He loved jazz, and he loved to reminisce about it in an educational way.”
Hanlon recalled Rando’s storytelling capabilities as some of the most memorable of any person he’s known. He viewed Rando as an asset to the university and the valley.
“He’s a marvelous storyteller and an extremely bright man,” Hanlon said. “Because of his storytelling, being in his company is an honor because the man is a legend. He’s a gentleman people in Las Vegas should remember because he is such an historical figure in this town.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Lisa Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 383-4686.