Jeff Veatch


September 8th, 2008 was to be Justin’s first full week of school as a senior at Yorktown High school.  It was 6:20 in the morning. His father was already on his way to work.  Justin’s mother and sister were making breakfast.  But his alarm droned on for  nearly 10 minutes when his mother went to get him up.  There was something very wrong.  A panicked call to paramedics ended in a parent’s worst nightmare.

Extraordinary musician, son, brother, friend, Justin Veatch tragically died in his sleep as a result of an accidental drug overdose at age 17.  He was incredibly gifted as a singer, songwriter and musician, having dedicated his future to music several years before his death.

Jeffrey Veatch, founder of The Justin Veatch Fund and father of Justin, is available to present a powerful and moving, 40-minute, multi-media presentation that tells Justin’s story from a parent’s perspective, followed by a question and answer session. The talk is appropriate for all ages but particularly relevant to 13 to 16 year olds and their parents. Jeffrey makes the point that we can all learn from Justin and he communicates two messages: the importance of taking care of yourself and dealing with adversity.

Jeffrey explains how Justin, at the age of 12 and forming his first band, wore black “X’s” on the backs of his hands and when asked what that was he replied it stood for straight edge, no drugs.  Justin was proud of that.  What happened to him from age 11 or 12 to age 16 and 17 that changed his attitude?  Teens go through a tremendous evolution, with new pressures, friends, challenges   and choices every step of the way.  As teens develop and become more independent their perspective changes; they often become “invincible” in their own minds.  Based on the latest surveys, the reality is one out of five 8th graders have tried marijuana.  One in five teens has admitted to abusing prescription pain medications.  And 28% say they know someone who uses Ecstasy.

Veatch discusses what happened to Justin and how young people can take better care of themselves. He advises teens that if for some reason they get caught up in drugs, there is a safety net at their disposal.  He encourages them to use it, whether it’s their parents (or a friend’s parent) or another adult, such as a favorite teacher, guidance counselor or coach.  He suggests that teens learn who their real friends are and try to BE a good friend.  Good friends don’t let each other do things to harm themselves.  If they can’t help, they can get help.  Teens must learn to use their voices and their safety nets.

Veatch also talks about overcoming adversity.  All of us will face it in our lifetimes; things will happen that we cannot control.   He advises teens to take action – if they suffer a loss, then honor that person by doing something special in his/her name; if It’s a personal failure, change your course; if it’s an accident, accept your lot and move on.  He shares an insightful slogan he remembers from his past: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

The Justin Veatch Fund recognizes the teaching of music and art as a critical component of a child’s education. The mission of The Fund is to support emerging, college-bound artists with opportunities to discover new skills and to refine existing talent. The Fund’s signature program, The Justin Veatch Music Scholarship, is a way for Justin’s family to help finance budding artists with an education leading to a career in music.


Justin Veatch


 In the News:

Jeff Veatch on Good Morning America

A Message From Justin:


What People are Saying:

“…your style was so believable, and, as a parent, I felt so connected. Using pictures from Justin’s life, especially the DARE card and pledge touched me greatly. When students sign that pledge in the elementary grades, they truly mean it; but, so many times something happens that takes them away from their true dreams. I left your talk feeling that your family’s story could be the story of any of our families. I also tend to watch students’ eyes, and theirs were riveted on you. You never got “preachy” nor tried to scare the kids; you just told your story. Despite all of the sadness, you left me with a message of hope, and the work you do in Justin’s memory is so meaningful. Thank you for having the courage to share Justin’s story.”

William J. Belluzzi
Superintendent of Schools
Montvale, NJ Public


““…thank you for your powerful presentation at Bay Shore High school’s Red Ribbon Assembly. Your message had an immediate impact on many of our students. The dangers of drug and alcohol use are an important issue that must be addressed. I feel you offered our students a heartfelt and personal perspective regarding the risks and consequences involved in substance abuse. Your continued commitment to our youth and to communicating Justin’s message is recognized and greatly respected.”

Michelle Garrett, Assistant Principal
Bay Shore High School
Bay Shore, NY


“You could hear a pin drop today and the amount of students that gathered around Jeff afterward was a real indication….I think they took it well, very positively.”

Dawn Bartz, Principal
Pleasantville High School
Pleasantville, NY