Lion Foundation Songwriting

2023 The Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition

First Place announced HERE Thursday 18th August.

50 Finalist Songs, School of the Year Award and Junior Maioha Award all announced on Monday 22nd August.

David Richwhite Lyric Award will be announced at later date

The Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition

This is New Zealand’s national secondary school songwriting competition, and has yielded thousands of entries from around the country over the past 16 years. 

The competition is open to all secondary school students, years 9 to 13, in New Zealand.

This competition celebrates and embraces the voice of our youth through song.

Here is a chance to have your song recorded in a professional recording studio to the value of $750. Over forty songs are recorded, mastered and included on the annual Play It Strange album which is made available for free download and streaming. These songs are enjoyed and embraced by many - schools, community, whanau, peers and the wider music community.


The winning songwriter/s will receive the Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition 1st Place Trophy.
 A $1,000 NZ Rockshop voucher.
A NZ On Air “Special Tracks” grant of up to $8,000 for recording the track professionally.
A chance to make a music video (see conditions of entry).


All finalists receive a signed certificate.
A $50 NZ Rockshop voucher.
A day in a professional recording studio to the value of $750 to record the song entered.


There are several awards within the Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition

Junior Maioha Award - Best song in Te Reo Maori
David Richwhite Lyric Award - Best lyrics
PwC School of the Year Award - To the school with the most songs in the finalists


Entry is online and your song must be authorised by your school’s principal or other teacher (see entry form). Our judging panel does not take the entry’s recording or performance quality into account.

Each song is judged equally - 50% lyrics and 50% composition. You are not required to perform your own song for the entry recording.

The song can be recorded by a group or by an individual (see 4b. on the conditions of entry section).


First Place announced HERE Thursday 18th August and 50 finalists announced on Monday 22nd August!

2021 Winners

First Place in the 2021 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition was Morgan Castello from Kaipara College, with her song ‘Strange Love'.


Morgan Costello

"Strange Love"

Kaipara College

The first place-getter in the 2021 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition is Morgan Costello with her song 'Strange Love'. Morgan has been a successful Play It Stranger songwriter for the last three years.

Mike Chunn - our CEO - says: "Morgan has a complete array of songwriting skills. From cool chord structures to evocative lyrics; an understanding of prosody and how it brings songs to the right detail and story-telling. Her time at Kaipara College has proved her to be a musician and writer of great worth. 'Strange Love' is a song that deserves first place."


Gisborne Girls High School

The 2021 Play It Strange School Of The Year Award goes to Gisborne Girls High School for having the most songs in the Top finalist list of 93 songs - Congratulations!

Junior Maioha AWARD

Tia Morehu and
Jalayne Te Paa


Kaipara College

This is so exciting and I am over the moon for the girls. They have put many years of hard work into bringing waiata into our music way and they can be very proud of the contribution they have made for us and all supporting the kaupapa. Love your work - Nick Roberts, Kaipara College Tumuaki Tuarua/ Deputy Principal

2021 David Richwhite Lyric Award

Billie Comer

"Dance With Me"

Wakatipu High School

Our Lyric Award judge this year was Play It Strange trustee Sonja Hawkins. She had this to say about Billie’s song; 'I choose this song because I felt a real beauty in the words, both in a literal sense and metaphorically. A story of living  life, overcoming struggles and love and companionship overriding.’

About us

Come inside our world

Songwriting is a craft of the imagination and we believe that the creative environment surrounding songwriters should foster, expose and celebrate these songs. 

We run songwriting competitions with lyric, Maori language, Peace Song awards and others alongside. And we record at least 40 finalists each year in professional recording studios.

Songwriting, performance, and recording are the three pivots of our music evolution.

Read more

NZ Songwriters have their own take on what makes songwriting a vibrant, creative practice - read their fresh perspectives in our Songwriters Speak page

Songwriters Speak

2017 Play It Strange Album

Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition Finalists - songs are free to stream and download

2018 Deadlines

We've designed a poster with all key deadlines and dates for our competitions. Make sure to stick them in your calendar!

Further information about each competitions entry requirements can be found below in our "Competitions" section. 

Online entry forms are now available for each competition.

Download the PDF and print it out, stick it up at school and hand it out to friends, get the word out there!

Download and Print

Different by May Zeng

Winner of the 2017 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition 

Director/Producer: Mareea Vegas / DOP: Kent Belcher / Art dept: Alex Matthews / Editor: Zac Blair /
Post production: Henry Williamson @ Thievery Studio / Hair: Luci Hare / Makeup: Tiveshni Naidoo / Clothing: Thanks to Lela Jacobs
Special thanks to NZ On Air for their Special Tracks grant which covered the recording and film making.


Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition


The National Secondary School Songwriting Competition is the flagship programme of the Play It Strange Trust.

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Peace Song Competition


This competition seeks songs with the lyrics embodying a focus on Peace. N.B. We are unable to offer the Hiroshima Exchange prizes this year.

Read More

Who Loves Who Competition


The Winner and all Finalists have been announced.
For all secondary school students in NZ.
The competition is judged based on the originality of the cover you choose to rearrange and sing, written and performed by a kiwi artist.
Supported by a Music Grant from Recorded Music NZ.

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Strange Art


Play It Strange presents a Cover Art competition to celebrate all creatives at New Zealand Secondary Schools. 

This competition seeks an Album Artwork for the front cover of the 2018 Play It Strange Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition.

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What we do

We do all sorts of cool projects

Play It Strange has worked for over 10 years, striving to provide secondary students with a platform they can use to pursue their musical adventures. We've held concerts, workshops and competitions, all with the intentions to provide the right environment from which students can gain confidence, self-belief and an impetus for a career path they would like to follow.

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Songwriting is now an NCEA achievement standard

Songwriting will be offered as Level 3 NCEA achievement standard beginning 2017 - a victory!

Get Involved

Strange Friends

Patrons, Strange Friend Stars and our Strange Friends are a crucial and valuable community that support us.

We would love you to come on board.
All donations are tax deductible.

If you are interested in becoming a Platinum Patron or Strange Friends Star or indeed support Play It Strange in any way please give us a call, we would love to catch up and talk.

Email Us(09) 377 7919

Songwriting at University of Waikato

University of Waikato have completed their first Songwriting paper

University of Waikato summer paper ‘Introduction To SONGWRITING’ has just finished.
Students have finalised the tracking of their two songs and the results are very cool.

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I Know This To Be True was conceived and assembled by Geoff Blackwell of PQ Blackwell, and Ric Salizzo. It is a book about truth, beauty and wisdom. "Sixty New Zealanders in the middle of interesting lives talk about what really matters, truth and beauty, and the things they hold dear to their hearts."

Royalties from the book sales will be forwarded to PLAY IT STRANGE to further their website and school programmes.

I Know This To Be True is an incredible collection of New Zealanders discussing what it is that is important to them. PQ Blackwell have generously donated all profits from book sales to Play It Strange. We cannot thank them enough for their support of Play It Strange, and we are so grateful to be part of such a rich, inspiring project.

The book is available for purchase from any good book store in New Zealand and online. Go and get one and enjoy!

Listen to more of our songs here 

The songs on our Bandcamp are free to stream and download. Go crazy. They are there for your listening.


See what our Alumni are up to

Play It Strange songwriters that have had their songs recorded for the annual CD are making cool inroads out into the world. Their career paths were fuelled from their time at school during which they sent their songs into our competitions and triumphed.

Here we have a selection of those who hit the ground running when they left school. With songwriting, performance and recording experience they were capable and poised for action.

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Happy customers and clients

CUSTOMERS: Those philanthropic institutions, individuals, grants bodies and funding agencies. We applaud their generosity in supporting us and their focus on the benefits we bring to the society around us.

CLIENTS: The songwriters and performers that bring their imaginative craft and performing skills to bear and we are all rewarded. From the secondary school songwriting competitions to the recording sessions for the top 40 songs.

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We Are One

A Concert for Autism

Watch Seven Sharp's story on our WE ARE ONE - Concert for Autism here

Photo GalleryNZ Musician Magazine Review