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.
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.
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.