High Schoolers Sing No to Drugs

Assemblies. Speeches. Advertisements. These are all different mediums used to spread the message of preventing substance abuse. Nonetheless, substance abuse still remains an issue in New Jersey. According to the annual overview report by the New Jersey Department of Human services, about 56,000 people were admitted into treatment for their addiction in 2018 which fell into the same range as those of years prior. To fight this, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs! sought to use the universal language of music to spread the message of substance abuse prevention. They hoped that having the dangers of drugs expressed by peers would be better than further lecturing by adults. Beginning in 2005, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs! has hosted an annual songwriting competition where finalists are chosen to perform at a concert where judges will pick three winners. Those winners receive a cash prize and the opportunity to perform their song in other venues. Finalists have already been selected through online voting and fortunately, two of our fellow Morris Hills students qualified!

Freshman Aarush Rompally may not have much experience with songwriting, yet this has not prevented him from composing a poignant song. Armed with his background in choir and band along with his skill in writing poetry and creativity, he created a song that is emotionally touching in its simplicity. Inspired by a story he heard from a friend, Aarush chose to write about the importance of supporting someone with a drug addiction. This may seem strange in a competition whose theme is substance abuse prevention; however, his intended message is about the pivotal role relationships play in encouraging people to not turn to drugs. He believes that relationships motivate people going through dark times to say no to drugs. Aarush is ecstatic about being a finalist and is super excited to find out the results of the competition in April.

In contrast, sophomore Luke Mattessich is no stranger to songwriting. He plays multiple instruments including trumpet, guitar, bass guitar, piano, and drums. Of those instruments, the guitar, piano, drums, as well as harmonica feature in his song “The Fever”. The commonplace message of simply “Say no to drugs” has been overdone and so Luke decided to write his song from the perspective of talking to a person with a drug addiction. By choosing to write in second person, he hoped to make the song seem like a conversation illustrating the countless negatives of drugs. This one sided conversation as the speaker bluntly lays out the consequences that the addict suffers conveys the idea of avoiding the suffering of drugs. The downward spiral from a promising life demonstrates that not all roads lead to Rome as the path of drugs leads to misery and death. In the upcoming month, Luke is anticipatory about learning the results and hopes that you will support him.

While there was initially going to be a concert where finalists could perform, this has been cancelled due to concerns about COVID-19. Regardless, judges will still be selecting winners based on the submitted online performances of the finalists. In addition, online votes will be factored into these decisions, and voting goes until midnight on April 2. It is still not too late to vote! In order to vote, click on this link to listen and select the finalist you believe has the best song. You can vote as many times as you want so do not hesitate to support these amazing songwriters!