St Pius X students win national songwriting competition

Stars: Marli Reilly, Elizabeth Hughes, Frankie Parris, Lachlan Dougherty, Samuel McKay-Clerke at back. Odette Earl, Cooper Lloyd, Joseph Paisley.
Stars: Marli Reilly, Elizabeth Hughes, Frankie Parris, Lachlan Dougherty, Samuel McKay-Clerke at back. Odette Earl, Cooper Lloyd, Joseph Paisley.

Hunter high school creatives have been recognised as some of the country's best, after writing and recording a song calling for peers to unplug from technology and connect with loved ones.

St Pius X High School Adamstown year seven students Frankie Parris and Cooper Lloyd - along with a band of their peers - have been named the first winners of the 2019 Australian Children's Music Foundation National Song Writing Competition's new category, Song Writing School of the Year.

The school spent the $5000 prize on new instruments.

"We're very proud," Cooper, 13, said.

"The school gave a lot to us, it's good to know they're getting it back with new instruments," Frankie, 12, said.

"I just thought it would be another project, but it's grown bigger than I thought it would. It turned out much better than I expected."

The pair are in a gifted and talented program called Virtual Academy. They were asked to compose something that showed agency, which Frankie described as "your freedom to do something independently".

They had similar ideas and decided to work together.

"We're trying to tell people to get off their screens, get outside and spend time with their loved ones for the benefit of their health," Cooper said.

"There's a heap of technology and people are glued to it.

"Every day we see people with headphones in their ears crossing the road not paying attention or on their phone at traffic lights."

They said technology could also pose a risk to mental health, by facilitating constant comparison.

"With social media you can become trapped in a world where you think 'Am I good enough?' " Frankie said.

"It can be damaging."

The pair said people were becoming used to communicating through screens instead of face-to-face conversations.

"What about social skills?" Cooper said. "In a few years we'll have to apply for jobs and if you don't have solid social skills and eye contact, chances are you won't get the job."

The pair "played on our strengths" and, inspired by Macklemore, decided that Frankie would sing the chorus and Cooper would rap the verses.

They presented the demo for Unplug and Connect - pieced together from separate recordings - to a panel including staff from the school and Catholic Schools Office.

Former student Lili Crane helped them workshop the song. Music teacher Asha Lunarzewski helped them formed a band with peers to professionally record the song in the school's studio, with the assistance of producer Damien Cotton.

They entered it into the competition and while waiting for results the school arranged for them to work with director Joshua Holliday to film a video clip.