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Steve Aoki gives grant and free concert to Ohio State

    Steve Aoki performed at Newport Music Hall Monday night as part of a prize awarded by Chegg and The Truth Initiative. By getting the most votes, Ohio State won a performance and Q&A by Aoki, as well as a $10,000 grant towards music education. Credit: Victoria Holliday

DJ Steve Aoki’s on-stage antics combined with his generally unruly crowd make any one of his shows a spectacle. It had another lasting impact beyond the busted eardrums at Newport Music Hall on Monday night.

This year, Ohio State was the winner of #CheggMusic101, a contest sponsored by online textbook company Chegg and the Truth Initiative, that awarded a free concert from Aoki and a $10,000 grant toward music education to the school with the most votes.

The Truth Initiative is a national, nonprofit tobacco-free organization that promotes a culture of youth and young adults that reject tobacco use.

“I’m down with students,” Aoki said. “They represent a large part of the people that listen to my music and it’s my way to give back.”

Rae Hamm, marketing experiential coordinator for the Truth Initiative,said Aoki was the perfect fit because he could share their message of living a healthy lifestyle and the importance of education while giving students what they love music-wise.

“My music is all about release, having a good time and community. The EDM community is very large, it’s global, it’s experiential, it’s a kind of world you have to experience with your friends,” Aoki said. “People go out to festivals, go out to shows and you’re part of a larger community. I’m blessed to be part of this world, and I’m blessed that I have fans out here at Ohio State that got me out here.”

Matthew Mulqueen, Chegg’s vice president of brand partnerships,said Truth and Chegg chose Aoki for this year’s concert because he represented the values and demographics of both brands.

“We’re specific when we work with different artists on making sure that they’re aligned with both of our brands, education being a big part of that too,” Hamm said. “When working with [our brands], the artist doesn’t smoke and they support that mission, and they support the mission of students going out there and getting their education as well.”

Aoki said he’s never smoked a cigarette in his life and said his passion for education was a main factor in his decision to do the event.

“I want to promote that idea that learning is really important,” he said. “You gotta find your lane. There are so many different classes you can take where you can draw inspiration from, learn from and chart your own path, and that’s what I did. Now I have questions that I can answer. Now I have answers I can question.”

“That’s what education’s all about, it’s how to deal with the real world in uncomfortable times.”

Mulqueen said that even though Aoki is a megastar who has to be picky choosing shows, he was drawn to the missions of both campaigns.

“He was attracted to the fact that both of our brands are so student- and youth-oriented,” Mulqueen said. “By educating kids not to smoke, saving you money on textbooks and helping them become smarter in school.”

Aoki said he wants to push the culture of EDM forward and continue to promote happy and healthy lifestyles to his fans through music, dance and throwing cake in people’s faces –– his signature on-stage move.   

After his two-and-a-half hour set, Aoki took questions and interacted with students at a Q&A session.

“I get to do a sick show for them, hang out with them, talk to them about whatever they want to talk about and have some fun,” Aoki said.

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