Teens win national competition for original song

Haley Michelle Kagimoto and Colby Benson
Haley Michelle Kagimoto and Colby Benson

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - By: Melanie Yamaguchi

When Punahou senior Haley Michelle Kagimoto got a phone call from her voice teacher, she didn't expect to hear news that she would be going to Los Angeles for the 55th annual GRAMMY Awards Backstage Experience, a backstage tour that occurs while artists rehearse for last month's awards show.

"I was screaming, crying, I was trying to jump," she said. "I couldn't believe it. It was absolutely amazing."

Kagimoto and her friend Colby Benson, a Mililani High School senior, won the trip after placing second in a national competition called MusiCares Teens! Make Music Contest. The contest asked young musicians, between 14 and 18 years old, to compose or create an original song and/or music video interpreting the dangers of drug abuse or encouraging healthy living.

Benson and Kagimoto collectively wrote, sang and produced a music video for their original piece, "Change Who We'll Become," an upbeat and light-hearted song portraying the tales of friends and family.

"Both me and Haley have had family members who have experienced substance abuse and we really wanted to write a song for them and for everyone else who's struggling with drug abuse," Benson said.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie invited the duo to his office at the state Capitol Tuesday for a special commendation presentation. They took an important issue, he said, and conveyed it to their peers in a relatable way.

"When someone with whom you can identify is able to find a creative way of reaching out and grasping some of the terrors, some of the anxiety, some of the disquietude, some of the fears that they have about themselves and the world around them, it can make all the difference in the world," Abercrombie said. "What these two young ladies have accomplished is exactly that."

In addition to the Grammys backstage experience, all winners received prizes including iPads, an opportunity to release a record with Iron Ridge Road Recordings and a small cash award. They would also have their entries posted on the GRAMMY365 website, MTV Act blog and Above the Influence campaign website.

But at the end of the day, for Kagimoto and Benson, it was all about getting an important message out to their peers.

"We're hoping it does affect people who have struggled with substance abuse or are in that situation right now," Kagimoto said. "We're hoping it can make a difference."

To see the music video for "Change Who We'll Become," go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7LQWTX3TP4

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