Bruce Gallipani

Rockit Academy

Meet Bruce Gallipani, founder and Executive Director of RockIt Academy.  Rockit Academy is part of Rockit Live Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to live music education for kids ages 8 to 18 plus college students.  The students work as teams and they form bands and learn how to present themselves on stage.

It all began when Bruce’s daughters asked him to help with their middle school talent show.   After a few years of volunteering to produce the talent show, the Middletown Arts Center came calling and asked Bruce to start up a kid’s music program for them.   He kept his day job – well really a night job – while also running this program.  At that point, he felt that this was his calling and knew he had to do more.  His vision was to go bigger so he approached the Count Basie Theatre to ask if they were interested in a program like his.  He was with the Basie for a few years but balancing his job and this program were taking a toll and he was just ready to call it quits.  The Basie wanted to raise money to bus inner city school kids for shows.  Bruce suggested they get Steven Van Zandt as the big name draw for the fundraiser.  Bruce didn’t even know the Van Zandts at the time.

Shortly after, the Van Zandt’s became part of the Rockit family – they are the honorary godfather and godmother of the organization.  Eddie Brigati, singer/song writer from The Rascals is also a part of the Rockit family.

The school operates in partnership with Brookdale College and offer 4 sessions per year for up to 60 students per session.  It is an audition-based program and students need to reapply after each quarterly session.  Each session ends with a show.  Some students receive a scholarship but someday Bruce envisions that Rockit Academy will become an all-scholarship program.

Memorable Moments

I asked Bruce to reflect on some of the most memorable moments.  During a fund raiser at the Count Basie Theatre, Steven Van Zandt reached for one of the student’s guitar and joined the students on stage.  Bruce had no idea he was going to do that.  The kids were thrilled.

Jacquie Lee, The Voice runner-up, was with Rockit for three years before her performance on The Voice.  After her Voice appearance, Jacquie came back to the rehearsal room with the other students.

Although those are the mind-blowing moments, the special moments for Bruce is when he watches a student during rehearsals and sessions and sees them transform.  They are no longer shy and quiet and open up to the other kids in the group.

Click here to watch a terrific profile by WPIX done a couple of years.

 Today’s Challenges

Everything changed with the pandemic.  Private lessons became virtual and that was easy, but virtual band sessions were nearly impossible with the video lag.  So they started master classes – Eddie Brigati’s song-writing classes each Tuesday, Studio recording, how to maintain your equipment, music theory and more.

Bruce has a positive outlook and knows that things will be okay. He thought it would be the end of Rockit, but he believes that they are blessed from above and people looking out for them.

Just For Fun:

Meeting with Bruce (via Zoom), I wanted to find out a little more about him
Q. Please tell us a little bit about your family.
My wife and I are married 32 years and have two daughters. Both in health care. A Pharmacist and Registered Nurse. My wife Ruby is a Registered Nurse and Operating Room Education Manager at Robert Wood Johnson University.
Q. How long have you lived or worked in Middletown?
27 years
Q. Please tell us about your current career. Thing you love most about what you do.
I am Executive Director of the Rockit Live Foundation/ Rockit Academy. A live music education program in partnership with Brookdale Community College. I am very fortunate to have this great opportunity to work in a creative and educational environment with student musicians.
Q. What inspired you or led you to your current career?
My mother’s passing put me on a path to reach out and help others in my community as she did her entire life. My father was a musician and our house always filled with music. This is how I fell in love with music at a very early age and have now devoted my life to music education.
Q. What is your favorite local restaurant?
I like the local pizza places.
Q. Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever met?
I’d have to say, three of our Artist Advisory Board members, Maureen & Steven Van Zandt and Eddie Brigati. But I grew up with Eddie’s music of The Rascals in our household and played his songs with my father (an accordionist) when I started playing drums. I first saw The Rascals at Shea Stadium when I was six years old. Maureen Van Zandt introduced me to Eddie when our academy performed at Steven Van Zandt’s album release party at the Count Basie Theatre. Eddie and I have since become best friends. He not only sang in The Rascals but wrote the lyrics to all their hits. Eddie has a way with words and when we get together, we sit for hours talking. Sometimes in restaurants until they close. The combination of Eddie being a poet/writer and a person for THE PEOPLE as Steven Van Zandt is as well, always makes for an interesting and great time.

Bruce and his family At the Rockit Inaugural Gala honoring Maureen and Steven Van Zandt. Photo: Mark Weiss

Q, If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
The Philippines. That’s where my wife’s family is and its paradise.
Q. What is one of your favorite movies? TV shows?
The Godfather, Honeymooners, Seinfeld
Q. What advice would you offer to people?
Family first, follow your passion, treat people with respect, and believe in yourself and who you are. These are things you don’t learn in school but will advance you in life.
Q. What is something on your bucket list?
To go on a safari.
Q. What is your go to band when you cant decide what to listen to?
The Beatles
Q. What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about Middletown?
New Monmouth Diner
Q. If you could choose anyone, with whom would you love to have lunch? Why?
Paul McCartney, because I love speaking with musicians about music. So just imagine what a conversation with Paul would be like.
Q. What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
The people. We moved from Brooklyn years ago and it seems everyone followed. I always feel at home.
Q. What is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I’m a homebody. I guess that’s not so interesting.
Q. What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
The Philippines
Q. Who inspires you to be better?
My family and the student musicians I work with in Rockit.
Q. Finally, what 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
I Love You

2019 Brookdale Community College & Rockit partnership reception Photo: Laura Desantis Olsson

2019 Brookdale Community College & Rockit partnership reception. Founding member of The Rascals, Eddie Brigati offers words of wisdom to us. Photo: Laura Desantis Olsson

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