Drugs & Health Blog

Announcing the “Teens Make Music” Contest Winners!

Winners at the MusiCares Person of the Year Rehearsals. L-R: Julie Ratzlaff, Elena Giddins, Steve Van Doren (Vice President of Vans), Caleb McDonald, and Andrew McMains.

The NIDA Blog Team

We recently mentioned the MusiCares® Teens Make Music contest—musicians between the ages of 14 and 18 submit original pieces of music that celebrate life “above the influence” or that bring attention to the real-life consequences of drug use. The 2018 winners attended the GRAMMY Awards in Los Angeles in February and received tickets to Vans Warped Tour and other prizes.

This time, there were four winning songs:

  • First Place: “Lost”—Lyrics and Vocals by Andrew McMains, 17 (Salem, OR); and David Bond, 18 (Salem, OR)
  • Second Place: “Addicted”—Lyrics and Vocals by Elena Giddins, 14 (New York, NY)
  • Third Place (tie): “Where Did You Go”—Lyrics and Vocals by Julie Ratzlaff, 18 (New York​, NY)
  • Third Place (tie): “Demons”—Lyrics and Vocals by Caleb McDonald, 18 (Salem, OR)

We reached out to the winners recently to talk about their winning songs and their trip to the GRAMMY Awards. 

What motivated you to enter the “Teens Make Music” contest?

  • Andrew: “I didn't need motivation. I was already doing what needed to be done for the contest. So I said, why not? It didn't feel like a chore or homework because I loved doing it.”
  • Elena: “I really love music. It means everything to me. I also love helping people. It makes me feel great when I can combine these two passions. As a teenager who’s just started high school, I can see how important it is for kids to understand the risks of drugs and alcohol, so I wrote this song to express these feelings.”
  • Julie: “I entered this contest because I feel very strongly about the topic of drug and alcohol abuse.”

What gave you the idea for your winning song?

  • Elena: “When you’re a kid, your parents tell you drugs and alcohol are dangerous. They warn you that some people can become addicted very easily. But when you’re with your friends and they’re partying, you want to try…because it looks like it could be fun, or you want to fit in, or it just seems cool. So, you try it. And then you try it again. And suddenly you’re doing it every day. You’re addicted and you can’t stop. And then you have to lie to your family, you lose your parents’ trust and respect, and the world feels scary, sad, and out of control. Everyone is hurt. That was the idea behind my song—the pain of hurting the people you love the most by making bad choices.”
  • Julie: “I got the idea for my song from the many experiences I’ve had with people struggling with addiction. I hope that this song helps other people feel like they aren’t the only ones torn by their love for someone and that person’s addiction.”
  • Andrew: “When [David] made the beat for the song, he titled it, ‘Confusing,’ and put it on SoundCloud. It gave me the idea to write the lyrics about how drug addiction made my life confusing: ‘My life’s so confusing ‘cause all these drugs I was using.’ Everything that I say in the lyrics I wrote, in my verse, is legit.”

What did you enjoy most about being at the GRAMMY Awards?

  • Julie: “The thing I enjoyed most about this experience is being able to meet all the people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet.”
  • Andrew: "Feeling important and just being a part of it.”
  • Elena: “I loved meeting the other winners. At the rehearsal, I heard H.E.R. for the first time and I love H.E.R.! The song ‘Hard Place’ is now one of my favorite songs. I also had an opportunity to say hello to Miley Cyrus and Shawn Mendes after watching them rehearse and I got to see Travis Scott. It was all really amazing.”
Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.

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