Two Bay Shore High School students turned a music theory class assignment into a $5,000 grant for the school's multimedia lab.
Sodasia Thompson and Joe Pastore, both 16, learned on June 4 that they won the grand prize in VH1's Battle for the Bands competition.
The students' journey started in January, when Ted Scalzo, a music teacher at the school, assigned his class to come up with projects demonstrating what life would be like without music.
"It's not something I take lightly because music is a huge chunk of my life," said Thompson, a sophomore, who later that day sat down at her keyboard and began composing a song. "If music gets cut, young people won't even know what they could've had."
Thompson finished the song, "The Power of Music," two weeks later, and longtime friend Pastore helped put together a music video to enter in the competition.
After the April 27-May 11 voting period, celebrity judges Kris Allen and Ingrid Michaelson, along with music industry experts, awarded prizes to students with the top 10 videos as determined by the most "likes" received on YouTube.
In addition, a compilation of the best videos will be shown to lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to lobby against cutting school music programs, according to the website dosomething.org, which collaborated with VH1 for the contest.
"I'm so proud of these two. They do realize how fortunate they are to have access to all of this," said Scalzo, 55, of Setauket, referring to Bay Shore's music curriculum and equipment.
Pastore, who has been friends with Thompson since fourth grade, jumped at the chance to work with her on the music video.
"Music is my entire life. I write and I jam with my friends after school," said Pastore, a sophomore.
"There's nothing better than exploring what music can do for you."Pastore spent almost every day after school in the multimedia lab, digging through video footage of musical performances and putting together the video.
Thompson credits her success to the lab, which is equipped with 24 Macintosh computers, just as many piano keyboards and a recording studio.
Sodasia is already looking forward to a new opportunity. She wants to spend this summer at a five-week program run by music industry executives at Berklee College of Music in Boston, learning how to mix, produce and market her own music. She just needs to come up with the money to pay for it.
"I'm still figuring it out, but I'd like to become a [music] producer," Sodasia said. "There are a lot of kids who deserve to be heard and we need to make sure all their voices are heard or else there will be no music left."