Music with a message

Burlington Township High School Senior Zon’ya Lanier is the finalist for Burlington County in the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs song contest.

Photo Courtesy of Zon’ya Lanier: Zon’ya Lanier poses for an artist photo. Lanier is the finalist for Burlington County in the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs contest for his song “Alone”.

Since 2005, New Jersey Shout Down Drugs, sponsored by the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, has challenged students to write original music and lyrics that spread a message of substance abuse prevention. They believe teens are more likely to listen to people their own age, and wrapping the message up in their favorite medium of music doesn’t hurt either.

“The 2019 New Jersey Shout Down Drugs participants have displayed not only creativity and musical talent, but also determination to make a difference in the lives of their peers by using their talent to spread important messages of prevention,” PDFNJ Executive Director Angelo Valente said. “Shout Down Drugs is unique, because it allows young people to be leaders in a positive and creative way. It’s a wonderful opportunity for these teens to inspire their peers with their passionate messages of substance use prevention.”

For the second year in a row, Burlington Township High School senior Zon’ya Lanier earned a spot in the contest as the finalist for Burlington County with his song “Alone.” As a county finalist, Lanier will be performing at the annual Prevention Concert on Friday, May 10, at Rutgers University’s Mastrobuono Theatre.

This year, Lanier has taken a different approach with his entry into the contest.

“The first year I entered it, my song was really aggressive. I think that’s why I didn’t win. This year, I went with a little bit more of a subtle approach, it’s kind of a sequel to the first song I wrote. It’s sort of answering the questions of everything I said in the first song,” said Lanier.

In school, Lanier is involved in pep rallies and acts as a peer mentor for underclassmen. Last year, he was a member of the Peer Leaders group, and although he hasn’t served in an official capacity this year, he continues to look out for underclassmen, having established himself as a leader and mentor.

For Lanier, his music is a way to get a positive message across to all kinds of people. He sees music as something everyone can get behind.

“Everybody, young, old, well-behaved, misbehaved, everyone listens to music, so I feel as though if you can send a positive message, or some type of message through music, where people can listen to it and enjoy it while learning something or taking something from it, it’s the best way to get a message across,” said Lanier.

When Lanier learned about the song contest last year through the Peer Leadership program he was involved in, he saw it as an opportunity to do something he had always wanted to do, but had no idea where to start.

Lanier counts artists like Nipsey Hussle, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole among his musical influences. He prefers artists who say something with their music and public platform.

“They know how to make a good song, but they also know how to send a message,” said Lanier.

He describes his personal musical style as “hopeful.” When people listen to his music he hopes they can relate to it and hear a reflection of things that have happened in their own lives.

“I just want to put a beat behind it, a little bit of rhythm, and hopefully you get motivated to recognize your issues and your problems or whatever’s wrong with you and find your way through it and keep on pushing,” said Lanier.

To hear Lanier’s song “Alone,” and cast your vote in the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs contest, visit shoutdowndrugs.com before the annual Prevention Concert on May 10 and click on the Contestants tab at the top of the page.