Celebrity chef, high school student share experience, love of music in New York City songwriting contest

MANHATTAN, New York (WABC) -- The first "My NYC Songwriting Contest" for the city's teenagers was so successful the Mayor's Office of Media And Entertainment is again calling for entries.

New Jersey's own Tom Colicchio is one of the most famous chefs in America, so you may be surprised to find him on stage playing guitar and singing "This Land is Your Land" at City Winery.

"Always a music fan, going back to my first concert was Led Zeppelin in Madison Square Garden," the Elizabeth native said.

Colicchio wanted to be a rock star before he learned to cook, and when fame came in his chosen profession, he got serious about his first love by taking guitar lessons after he turned 40.

"To play every morning, and I play right before I go to bed," Colicchio said. "And if I'm actually playing for an hour, that's that one hour when I'm not thinking about anything else."

He is one of the judges of the "My NYC Songwriting Contest," staged by an organization called "Guitar Mash," along with The Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment. It's open to teenagers in all five boroughs.

High school sophomore Chloe Hennessee was last year's winner, and she joined Colicchio in his restaurant called "Craft."

"I've been writing songs since I was 7 years old," Hennessee said. "And it's always been something I loved to do, because I can take a step back and take a look at how I'm feeling about something specific or a specific moment. And so it helps me to sort of understand everything that's happening in my life."

Colicchio said it's been special to reach out to the younger generation.

"It's really cool when older generations help out younger generations with this sort of thing, and becoming confident in yourself and in your songwriting," Hennessee said.

The two generations share a common bond, united by their love of music.

Teenagers have until October 15 to submit their original tunes inspired by New York City to the "My NYC Songwriting Contest." For more information, visit GuitarMash.org.

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