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Musician Bobby Weiss visits CUFSD students

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Musician Bobby Weiss recently visited Chester Elementary School and Chester Academy to speak with students about his experience in the music industry as part of the Chester Union Free School District’s Career Connections program. Throughout the school year, teachers bring in class visitors to speak with their students to link student learning to real-world applications/careers outside of the classroom. Mr. Weiss visited Mrs. Rachel Scali’s music classes to share the story of the music and lyrics that his father, the late George David Weiss, wrote and composed. 

George David Weiss was a songwriter who wrote hit songs including, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “What a Wonderful World.” He has also collaborated on several Broadway musicals with his best-known being “Mr. Wonderful.” He passed away in 2010 at the age of 89.

Bobby Weiss currently lives in Woodstock, where he has been living since he was 12. He works at the Rock Academy, which is a performance-based music school for kids ages 8 through 18, and is a teaching assistant at Ulster County BOCES. 

But Mr. Weiss is a musician at heart. 

“I obviously grew up in a musical family, with my dad being a songwriter,” he said. “I grew up around it. I was also in the chorus in elementary school and high school. But once I got to junior high school and high school, that was when I started putting music bands together. I was supposed to go to Berklee College of Music. I went up there and auditioned and interviewed, and my dad actually came with me, and I was accepted.”

“I actually made him (my dad) really angry,” he said with laughter, “because that June I got into this band, and I was singing, and we started recording a few demos, and I was like, ‘We’re going to be the next big thing. I can’t move away to (attend) college.’ And by the time August rolled around, I told my dad I wasn’t going and man, was he mad.”

“But my dad was always very supportive of me trying to pursue music,” he added. 

His band, Talon, formed in 1986, had a successful run until their disbandment in 1987. However, they reunited for a few shows and are currently working on an album that they never got to make during the ‘80s.

“We’re looking forward to it, and it’ll be an authentic ‘80s metal album because none of these songs were written after 1989. We’ll call it, ‘The Longest Awaited Debut Album of All Time,” he said with a chuckle.

Growing up around music, Mr. Weiss had been exposed to the ins and outs of the music industry and was able to work on a few records with his dad. In 1994, they worked on a record together that was based on his father’s experience in Africa. The record called JAMBO Africa was released on a jazz label called Red Dragon and distributed by Sony.

In that particular year, they managed to record five new songs and newer versions of classic hits such as “What a Wonderful World” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” That summer, Disney’s “The Lion King” was released and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was featured.

Mr. Weiss is mainly a singer and is constantly inspired by the work of his dad. “His career began as a published songwriter. I think the first song he ever published came out in 1946. ‘Oh, What It Seemed To Be’ by Frank Sinatra. Way to start a career, you know?”

Mr. Weiss explained that his father's success and hard work throughout the ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s made a huge impact. He became president of the Songwriters Guild of America in the 1980’s and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.

“He didn’t take a salary, but he was president of this organization that fought for the rights of songwriters, fighting to get them better royalties and making sure that they were getting treated, financially, the way that they should be.”

Currently, Mr. Weiss still writes music and is heavily involved in the industry. In addition to his involvement in Talon, he also sings and plays guitar in a “power pop punk band” called Pajamazon, which has been together since 1995. The band’s last performance was a few weeks ago at Snug Harbor Bar and Grill in New Paltz. 

When speaking about his current work in music, Mr. Weiss looked to his work at the Rock Academy as his “saving grace.”

“Honestly, the Rock Academy is the thing that sort of saved me, you know? Musically and sort of mentally and emotionally. In terms of being bummed out for years and years that I didn’t make it in the music business. But now, what I do there and working with kids- it’s so awesome. And it’s so fulfilling, and it’s like, ok maybe this is what I was meant to do. And I just had to wait for it.”

This visit from Mr. Weiss allowed students at CA and CES to gain insight into the music world and drive innovative and future-focused learning. Students are able to speak with industry professionals and learn about various real world careers through the Career Connections program. 

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