“As arts education continues to disappear from school curriculums, I realize more and more the importance of programs like Rockit. My time spent with the Rockit musicians and their amazing staff led by Bruce Gallipani has given me hope that rock music will continue to be respected and cherished, and will live on. They inspire me, astound me, and make me very proud to be involved.”
– Maureen Van Zandt
In the immortal words of AC/DC, “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock-n-roll.” However, Brooklyn–based musician Bruce Gallipani decided nine years ago that he could teach young rockers some valuable lessons along the way.
Gallipani believes in rock music, that it offers a whole lot of positive reinforcement and well-being for today’s youth. He’s pounding out the message with every concert, sharing his vision, and giving kids a taste of performing live on the big stage together. Soon-after its inception in 2004, Rockit was invited to take their road show to the Performing Arts Academy of The Count Basie Theatre, a landmark venue in the heart of Red Bank, New Jersey where the likes of Springsteen, Costello and other luminaries often perform.
“I wanted to take rock-n-roll out of the basement and prove that it offered the same positive reinforcements of social development and accomplishment as classical music, dance, or drama for kids right here in New Jersey,” Gallipani notes.
The Rockit Live Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization where kids ages 8-18, audition, then participate in a seven-week group program to learn a specific repertoire of songs, supplemented with individual instruction. Around forty-five young musicians divvy up to form separate groups who together, at the program’s end, perform in concert replete with high-production gear and lighting.
Music Outreach And Beyond
The program teaches its students the importance of community charity efforts. Rockit regularly performs at fundraising events and hospitals in support of children’s cancer, cerebral palsy, autism, and partners with various schools offering scholarships in the performing arts.
Success In The Making
Rockit alumni have gone on to tour with Steve Vai, perform with Keith Urban, become finalists on The X-Factor, sing on Broadway, and star on NBC TV’s The Voice.
Vocalist Jacquie Lee describes the experience: “Rockit was a lot more than a music program. It changed my life and taught me that music was more than just sound, but also a feeling. I will be forever grateful that somehow my path lead me there before anything because it’s where music became my passion and where I felt like I fit in. Seeing this program continue to do incredible things and inspire so many other kids is just simply the magic of Rockit.”
Rocking Full Houses
Rockit opened for The Marshall Tucker Band in 2008. They repeated the honors a year later in April 2009 playing a blazing 45-minute set to a full-house crowd. Marshall Tucker Band lead singer Doug Gray invited Rockit guitarists to trade licks with the band during their encore performance of the hit song, “Can’t You See.”
Later in 2009, a group of Rockit students performed with legendary session drummer Bernard Purdie at the D’Angelico Guitar Center in Red Bank.
2010 saw the Rockit All-Stars teamed with the NJ State Youth Orchestra to unleash a rousing set of symphonic classics at The Basie ranging from The Who, Kiss, ELO, Yes, and the 5th Dimension. Later that year, Rockit opened for Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes at the Basie’s New Year’s Eve concert.
The Basie has also invited Rockit to open for legendary vocalist Eric Burdon and singer-songwriter David Bromberg.
The live sets have evolved into thematic tribute concerts. The Rockit All-Stars performed the legendary Who’s Nextalbum replete with retro gear and a drum kit to honor Keith Moon. Rockit took this approach a step further in a summer show, A Tribute to Woodstock, with a stage design reminiscent of the original Summer of ’69 event. Other albums performed in full include Led Zeppelin I, Janis Joplin’s Pearl, Dark Side Of The Moon, and Band On The Run by Paul McCartney & Wings.
At the Basie Theatre’s Vanguard Awards in August 2014, honoree Steven Van Zandt joined Rockit on stage for “A Little Help From My Friends,” a Woodstock Tribute finale. Van Zandt and his wife Maureen coached the kids on music and clothing tips during rehearsals. For Vanguard II, Tommy was performed in its entirety with special guests, honoree guitarist Bobby Bandiera, drummer Carmine Appice, and guitarist Ricky Byrd.
Making It Happen
“I really get to be the rowdy musician I am at heart. There isn’t anything like it. I get to live my dreams of performing live on stage,” says Rockit guitar-alum Greg Oakes.
Vocalist and keyboard player Caroline Oddo adds, “The concerts are intense for all of us. We spend so much time and effort making sure the songs are just right. Before Rockit, I’d blast my favorite bands’ songs and play along on piano and sing. That was the closest thing I had to collaborating with any other musicians. I remember at the first rehearsal, walking outside and telling my dad that it had been the most fun I’ve ever had.”