RUMSON, NJ: What did iconic Rock and Roll Photographer Mark Weiss (aka Weissguy) wish for his 60th Birthday? An outside Birthday Bash at his Rumson home with perfect weather, family and friends, a live rock and roll concert, guests in black attire, many wearing complimentary signature Weiss bandanas, great food, and an open bar!  

That wish came true!

Weiss with the nudging and assistance from family and friends, together with them created an event to celebrate his 60th birthday that really was a treat for all of his 200+ guests--a rock concert to remember! There were tents set up in the backyard of the property and a significant sized stage for the entertainment. There was even a bounce house for the kids. Guests were rocking out through the evening!

Sign Up for E-News

Mark Weiss Weiss comments,  "I asked Bruce Gallapani, the founder of Rockit Live Foundation, if the Rockit Academy Band would play at my party.  I was ecstatic that 40 students put time aside to be a part of the celebration.  It was a special day as I turned sixty, sharing good times with friends and family at a great concert. My daughter Adele, my son Guy, and, my grandson Jax were all there to celebrate with me. It was really a great birthday gift to myself to be able to give back to the teens in the local Rockit program. My close friends Zakk Wylde and JD (John DeServio) were on stage playing with the Rockit teens. I can only imagine being a teen musician and having the opportunity to play with accomplished and famous rock and roll musicians. I loved how happy and excited the teens were and that was a great birthday gift. Even my three year old grandson Jax made his debut on stage!"  

VIDEO: Here is a video clip of the action at the WEISSGUY'S 60th birthday celebration. Weiss comments, "Watch the end of the video when my grandson Jax makes his debut stage appearance with my good buddies, Zakk Wylde and JD of Black Label Society performing "Fire It Up” with the Rockit Academy Band." 

Zakk Wylde commented, “Hey Rockit Foundation!!! All of you sounded amazing!!! Thanks for letting me and Father Ken and Father Weiss sit in with you!!! We had a blast! Stay strong, stay dedicated! Music rules!!!"

John "JD" DeServio from Black Label Society adds,  “I thought the band was awesome! Especially for such young kids! Whoever is teaching them is doing an awesome job!!"  

The 'whoever' is in large part the Founder and Executive Director of Rockit, Bruce Gallipani. He is the man who orchestrates the teens coming together to form their own practice and performance bands. The teens receive their own individual musical instruction privately, but it is Gallipani that hosts the auditions and then produces the bands and the coming together of young talented artist to rehearse and perform together in a real band.

Gallipani comments, "When Mark and I met five years ago, we immediately hit it off because of our immense passion for music and supporting youth in the arts. Mark and I have since become close friends, and we are very pleased that he is now a part of the Rockit Live Foundation, as an Advisory Board Member."

Weiss is an integral part of a dynamic board of talented industry professionals.  Gallipani continues, "We are so fortunate to have the board members we do. When the Godmother & Godfather of Rockit, Maureen Van Zandt and Steven Van Zandt offered support to our academy, we knew we were in good hands. They have devoted time and support to our Academy, a cause they keep very close to heart, along with Susan & Eddie Brigati (The Rascals), Carmine Appice, Ricky Byrd, Rockit Alum Christine Meisenhelter, Rich Russo and iconic rock and roll photographer Mark Weiss. It's an all Artist Advisory Board for our foundation and its so beneficial to our youth enrolled in the Rockit program." Weiss comments, "I've been supportive of the Rockit Live Foundation for several years donating my classic rock photos to raise funds for their scholarship program. When Bruce recently asked me to be on the advisory board, I graciously accepted. 

At Weiss’s 60th Birthday celebration the Rockit Academy showed their love for Mark with more than ten Rockit bands performing at his party. "Mark has been photographing Rockit musicians for well over four years, and the young artists wanted to give back to Mark and perform at his party. After Zakk Wylde performed with the kids, the Rockit guitarists immediately brought their guitars and pedals for Zakk to sign.  Gallipani continues, "When I asked our Rockit team how it felt to play on stage with Zakk Wylde, they responded with great excitement comments like: 'SOOO COOL!!!' and, 'This was one of the best days of our life!'" 

With Rockit there’s plenty more 'best days' to come. There are future plans for expansion into The Cutting Room NYC; Rockit’s home in NYC.

There were many special moments during the party for Weissguy, particularlly when Zakk Wylde and Mark Weiss played together as seen in this video below.

VIDEO: Wylde and Weiss singing "Born to be Zakk Wylde" from lyrics they made up in a bar over 30 years ago. 

Weiss comments telling the story of his relationship with Ozzy and the introduction of Zakk to Ozzy, "Seeing the Rockit kids on stage jamming with Zakk, reminded me of when Zakk was still a teenager playing in Jersey cover bands.  It was a Cinderella story that happened three decades ago.  I've been Ozzy’s photographer since he went solo in 1981, traveling the world with him, shooting his press photos, tour books, t-shirts and posters.  Over 30 years ago, Ozzy and Sharon were in NYC for the week and I had a photo shoot planned with Ozzy.  While they were in town they asked me to come with them to check out a guitar player to join the band.  I brought my friend Dave Feld (aka Face) with us .  The guitarist was good but didn’t have the look.  My last words to Sharon were, ' I’ll keep my eyes open.' I said goodbye and that I would see them at my studio to do the shoot with Ozzy. The stars aligned the next day when Face heard Zakk play at Close Encounters, a rock club in Sayreville, New Jersey.  Face introduced Zakk to me and I took him to an audition with Ozzy... Zakk's talent was undeniable.  Shortly after I told Ozzy about him, Zakk was on a plane to Hollywood for the audition."  

For over 30 years Zakk has been recording and touring as the guitarist of Ozzy, in 1998 Zakk came into his own with his band, recording and touring with  Black Label Society  Weiss comments, "To have Zakk at my party and to see him take the stage with the Rockit Academy Band brought it all full circle.  I see the fire in these Rockit kids.  They have undeniable talent and the guidance of my good pal Bruce Gallapani.  The sky's the limit... "

Other well known artists who have performed with Rockit are: Steven Van Zandt, Eddie Brigati, Carmine Appice, Steve Miller, Jon Bon Jovi, Lou pallo & the Les Paul Trio, and most recently, Zakk Wylde, among others. Gallipani comments, "Whenever the kids come off stage with a celebrity rocker, they have a look on their face like they can’t believe what just happened. That is priceless."

This year Rockit is honoring Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee, Ricky Byrd. Byrd has performed with Rockit many times and loves mentoring and sharing his experience with the Rockit Academy students. Ricky Byrd will be honored with the Rockit Star Award.  Rockit will also be honoring Lou Pallo with the inaugural Impact Award. Lou is formally of the Les Paul Trio and was Les Paul’s right hand man for 40 years. Lou Pallo is also deeply admired by the music industry. 

The Rockit Live Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Their mission is to help develop, nurture, and inspire young musicians to reach their full artistic potential through live music education at Count Basie. The Rockit Live Foundation’s Scholarship Program offers instruments and complimentary private lessons in conjunction with band sessions taught by professional and diverse music instructors. The foundation’s defining focus is outreach, music education, and scholarships. Recently, two scholarship Rockit students each received an electric guitar courtesy of the Guitar Center Foundation and Mitchell Guitars, presented by Janie Hendrix at the recent Experience Hendrix Tour performance at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ.  For more information on Rockit including upcoming performances and the August 22nd Gala featuring Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Ricky Byrd, click here.  For TAPintoMiddletown's feature article about Mark Weiss click here.