Opening doors to a world of musical possibilities


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The “Your Song! Your Voice! Shout Down Drugs competition,” organized by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDNFJ), is a platform for high school students to showcase their musical talents while sending a powerful message about substance use prevention.

As the competition gears up for its 20th season, they showcased the inspiring journeys of last year’s winners and how their experiences continue to inspire budding artists across the state.

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Jordan Wilson, from Lawrenceville, clinched the first-place title with his song “Intervention Intentions.” Wilson recalls the whirlwind of opportunities that followed his victory. “After I won the contest, it immediately followed with radio interviews, my song getting played on the radio, newspaper interviews, articles, and more,” he said. But perhaps the most memorable moment was his performance at the Delaware Juneteenth celebration. “It was an amazing time,” he said.

For the then-senior at Lawrence High School, the competition was a turning point in his musical journey. “This achievement assured me that my music could be impactful and ultimately serve as more than just a song; it was a message,” Wilson said.

Tina LaRosa from East Hanover secured the second-place spot with her composition “Wasted.” LaRosa’s life post-competition was not just about personal growth but also about realizing the potential of her music to effect change. “Since winning the song contest, I was able to use the prize money to buy a brand-new ukulele,” she said. This significantly boosted her musical skills, both in practice and performance. LaRosa’s newfound motivation drove her to put more of her music out into the world.

But the most significant breakthrough was that her songwriting could be a powerful tool for raising awareness. “This achievement really made me realize how my songwriting doesn’t always have to be about my personal experiences,” said LaRosa, who was a sophomore at Hanover Park High School when she became a winner in the competition. “It can also be written for a cause – to bring attention to a certain topic or feeling.”

Matthew DiTizio, hailing from Egg Harbor Township, secured the third-place position with his song “Revealed.” Participating in the PDFNJ’s competition was an unforgettable experience that opened doors to collaborations for DiTizio. “After winning the contest, I was actually connected with a few other artists who I’ve been able to work with,” said DiTizio, who was then a senior at Egg Harbor Township High School. His group, GardenGuyz1026, was interviewed by the press and spoke about creative freedom and their plans and goals with their music.

Winning the competition became a significant source of inspiration for DiTizio, encouraging him to continue making music and grow his knowledge. “Since the competition, I’ve continued to familiarize myself with more software and hardware, and expand my abilities,” he said.

Leela Kumar, of Marlboro, won the online vote with her song “Passion On Its Own.” “It opened doors to a world of musical possibilities that I had only dreamt of,” she said.

But even more important than winning was the contest instilled in Kumar the importance of using her talents for good. She said, “I was honored to be selected as one of 14 students in the tri-state area for a summer program in New York, and I had the privilege to work with incredibly talented individuals who shared my passion for playwriting.

“I created an original musical with five original songs addressing vital issues, particularly the pressing need for mental health awareness among teenagers. In fact, my high school has granted me permission to produce and direct this play in a few months, and we are currently in the auditioning process. I aspire to take this play further, using it to raise awareness for the importance of teen mental health and to support charitable causes,” said Leela, who was a freshman at Howell High School when she won.

PDFNJ’s “Your Song! Your Voice! Shout Down Drugs New Jersey” competition is supported by the New Jersey Broadcasters Association (NJBA) and 95.9 WRAT, which will host the virtual Prevention Concert featuring Creative Services Director of WRAT, Jimmy Steal.

Entries must be submitted by Sunday, March 24 to be eligible. An esteemed panel of judges will select the finalists whose songs will be broadcast on 95.9 FM during the concert on Wednesday, May 8. The competition winners will be announced live on 95.9 FM at the concert’s conclusion.

Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third-place winning songs. The top performer will secure a $5,000 music contract, while the second and third-place recipients will be awarded music contracts valued at $3,000 and $2,000, respectively, with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

For competition rules and entry details, visit

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