Lion foundation songwriting

Lion Foundation Songwriting

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

The finalists  have their songs recorded at a professional recording studio.  Each recorded song is mastered and included on the annual Play It Strange album.

The album is available for free downloading and/or streaming soon.


Junior Maioha (best song in Te Reo Maori)  
David Richwhite Lyric Award (best lyrics)  
Play It Strange PWC School Of The Year (most songs in the final list)

2019 Winners

First Place in the 2019 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition is Deena Kaiaruna from King’s College, Auckland with her song ‘A Normal Day.’

Deena receives the Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition 1st Place Trophy, a $1,000 NZ Rockshop voucher and a NZ On Air “Special Tracks” grant of up to $8,000 for recording the track professionally and to make a music video.

Thanks to all who entered – your writing and entering a song is in itself a triumph!

All awards in the 2019 Lion Foundation Songwriting Competition plus the full finalist list below.


Deena Kaiaruna

"A Normal Day"

King's College

"Deena Kaiaruna’s winning song is a truly engaging and vivid work. Musically it is adventurous and dynamic. And lyrically her heart is on her sleeve with much for us to respond to." - Mike Chunn, CEO

Junior Maioha

Melody Gray- Hohepa


Kaipara College

David Richwhite
Lyric Award

Baylie Vinson




Gisborne Girls' High School


Full Finalist List - 2019


Deena Kaiaruna

"A Normal Day"

King's College (Auckland)

Gabriel Giller,
Luke Sutton

"April Days"

Scots College (Wellington)

Rosie West

"Basement Song"

Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

Lachie McBride

"Been There, Done That"

St Andrew's College (Christchurch)

Jaeda Matagi-Eruera

"Better Times"

Papatoetoe High School (Auckland)

Silika Isaia,
Gabby Faapuea,
Russell Sega


Papatoetoe High School (Auckland)

Benjamin Frisby

"Carbon Copies"

Birkenhead College (Auckland)

Hayley Monaghan


Hamilton Girls' High School (Hamilton)

Axya Rebeca Dos Santos Borba

"Cuts And Bruises"

Birkenhead College (Auckland)

Benjamin Hayward,
Cameron Livingstone

"Down Low"

Bayfield High School (Dunedin)

Bryre Aish


Hamilton Girls' High School (Hamilton)

Gabby Christini,
Nganeko Newman

"Everyone Loves Her"

Western Springs College (Auckland)

Sophie Brown

"Fallen Up

Epsom Girls' Grammar School (Auckland)

Erin Myers

"Falling Further"

Hillcrest High School (Hamilton)

Rebecca Wallis


Otumoetai College (Tauranga)

Sage Klein

"Golden Hour"

St Andrew's College (Christchurch)

Halle Aish

"Hasten The Day"

Hamilton Girls' High School (Hamilton)

David Richwhite Lyric Award

Baylie Vinson


Homeschooled (Auckland)

Grace David

"In The Dark"

Diocesan School For Girls (Auckland)

Niki McLennan


King's College (Auckland)

Leah Scott,
Benjamin Ritchie

"La Casa"

Hagley Community College (Christchurch)

Caitlin Brown

"Leave Your Head"

Hagley Community College (Christchurch)

Mayank Kumar,
Rushil Kumar,
Zae Savage-Simeki,
David Su'a

"Let Me Breathe"

Papatoetoe High School (Auckland)

Tom Chamberlain,
Leo Bond,
Carlos Martin,
Te Kapua Pene,
Angus Hampton-Carr


Titirangi Rudolf Steiner School (Auckland)

Leah Nicholls


Nelson College For Girls (Nelson)

Myshaan Komene


Fraser High School (Hamilton)

Mere-Heni Matete

"Night Turns To Day"

Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

Shekinah Tofilau,
Susana Satini

"No Other"

Hamilton Girls' High School (Hamilton)

Marianne Leigh

"Not Enough"

Baradene College (Auckland)

Grace Cameron,
Finn Gowthorpe

"Oh Darlin'"

Kaipara College (Auckland)

Katrina Porter


Otumoetai College (Tauranga)

Carlo Marinovich,
Matisse Reynolds

"Out Of Place"

Rosmini College (Auckland),
Albany Senior High School (Auckland) –
The Band Factory, Kaipara College (Auckland)

Junior Maioha

Melody Gray-Hohepa


Kaipara College (Auckland)

Olivia Forbes


Kristin School (Auckland)

Alina Wang,
Abella Wang

"Pocket Full Of Stones"

ACG Parnell College (Auckland)

Elijah Parakoti

"Project EP"

Manurewa High School (Auckland)

Matthew Davey,
Kyle Hsieh,
Jimmy Gully,
Jordan Baker


Greymouth High School (Greymouth)

Tegan Hailes

"Rejection Hurts,
Doesn't It"

Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

Lucy Pritchard

"Seeing Sun At 9:02"

Waimea College (Nelson)

Tegan Nott

"Slow (This Is Janice)"

Garin College (Nelson)

Hana Pearce,
Pippa McAnergney,
Sienna Beer

"Song Of Hope"

St Andrew's College (Christchurch)

Natalie Hutton

"Sound Of The Stars"

St Margaret's College (Christchurch)

Morgan Costello,
Floyd Clark,
Alyssa Cafe


Kaipara College (Auckland)

Danica Bryant


Napier Girls' High School (Napier)

Estella Romagnoli

"Sweet Escape"

Nelson College For Girls (Nelson)

Matthew Palmer


St Andrew's College (Christchurch)

Monisha Whaitiri-Te Miha

"Taku Mama"

Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

Ngapera Isaacs

"Te Kāhui Ariki"

Tai Wānanga ki Ruakura (Hamilton)

Elegance Harrison,
Shania Lee

"Temporary Love"

Tolaga Bay Area School (Tolaga Bay)

Liam Boyne,
Roshan Dixon,
Caitlin Anderton

"The Addict"

Taieri College (Dunedin)

Nicole Hadland,
Eve Mulligan

"The City Of Dreams"

Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

Ella Barwick

"The Fog And The Dagger"

Pukekohe High School (Auckland)

Tomuri Spicer

"The Seed Is Strong
(He Kākano nō Kaha)"

Kings High School (Dunedin)

Matt Clarkson

"The Way The
Dog Ran Away"

Bayfield High School (Dunedin)

Sebastian Rojo


Henderson High School (Auckland)

Pounamu Wharehinga


Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

May Zeng

"Whatever You Want"

Westlake Girls' High School (Auckland)

Emma Burgess

"Wired By Her"

Gisborne Girls' High School (Gisborne)

Gloria Tuigamala

"You Are Not Alone"

Papatoetoe High School (Auckland)

Olivia Turner,
Liam Turner,
Caitlin Turner

"You Are Us"

Otumoetai College (Tauranga)

*If there is incorrect finalists information regarding a song title, writer name, etc please email to have it corrected -please put the song title in the subject line.

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.

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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.

Read More

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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