HOWELL — A Howell High School student will be performing his winning song on the big stage after earning top honors in a statewide drug prevention music competition.
Stephen Sayegh, a sophomore at Howell High School, was chosen as the Monmouth County finalist in the 15th annual New Jersey Shout Down Drugs competition, sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ).
Created back in 2005, the competition challenges students all over the state to create their own original song with lyrics that revolved around a substance abuse prevention message. The premise is to “allow teens to deliver the prevention message to each other through their favorite medium of music,” according to the website.
Stephen’s song “Sugarcoated Overdoses” was chosen as the top song from Monmouth Country entries by an independent panel of judges.
In an interview with Jersey Shore Online, Stephen explained that the contest was first proposed to him by his music teacher at HHS. Stephen was the only student to enter out of his entire class. With the help of a good friend, he worked to put together some original music and lyrics.
The essence of his song “Sugarcoated Overdoses” was meant to capture real-life perspectives.
“We wanted to write about the stories of people really going through this,” he said.
His song makes mention of substance abuse hotlines, the difficulties of quitting drugs “cold turkey,” and the way substance abuse can significantly impact one’s life.
Stephen noted that the main message he would like to convey, and a popular refrain used in the song, is “We Can Be Ok.”
This win earned Stephen a spot at the annual Prevention Concert, where 24 students – 13 musical acts –will compete for $10,000 in music contracts.
While he is not looking to win the contest per se, Stephen is very excited to attend.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting other artists,” he said.
The Prevention Concert will be held on May 10, 7 p.m., at Rutgers University’s Mastrobuono Theatre.
“The 2019 New Jersey Shout Down Drugs participants have displayed not only creativity and musical talent, but also determination to make a difference in the lives of their peers by using their talent to spread important messages of prevention,” PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente said. “Shout Down Drugs is unique, because it allows young people to be leaders in a positive and creative way. It’s a wonderful opportunity for these teens to inspire their peers with their passionate messages of substance use prevention.”
To cast your vote for Howell native Stephen Sayegh, visit ShoutDownDrugs.com before May 9. Your vote will factor into the finalists’ scores on the night of the concert.