The song, which includes a powerful message that encourages teens to put down devices and connect with loved ones, impressed the ACMF judges, with them saying "it's such a beautiful song, the lyrics spoke to us."
The song was co-written by year 7 students, Cooper Lloyd and Frankie Parris. Cooper and Frankie are both part of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle's gifted education program, known as the Virtual Academy. As part of the Virtual Academy curriculum, they were tasked with developing a product that improved something in society that they felt strongly about.
Working collaboratively, Frankie and Cooper composed a song highlighting the impact that technology is having on their generation.
"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."
The pair said they were concerned about the impact this may be having on some teen's mental health, with a tendency for many to compare themselves to other people's digital media image.
"With social media, you can become trapped in a world where you think 'Am I good enough?' "Frankie said, "it can be damaging."
They presented the demo for Unplug and Connect - pieced together from separate recordings - to a panel including staff from the school and the Catholic Schools Office.
So impressed were the judges that the school's leadership team encouraged the students to workshop the song lyrics with a former student, Lili Crane. Then with guidance from the school music teacher Mrs Asha Lunarzewski, they formed a band and were invited to re-record the song in the school's recording studio. Frankie and Connor were joined by the peers Elizabeth Hughes, Marli Reilly, Samuel MacKay-Clerke, Odette Earl, Lachlan Dougherty and Joseph Paisley and all benefited from the guidance of Damien Cotton, who produced the song for them.
With the song finalised, the students entered it into the 2019 Australian Children's Music Foundation National Song Writing Competition's new category, Song Writing School of the Year. To their excitement, the school won! As part of the winnings, $5,000 in prize money was donated to the school and spent on new instruments.
"The school gave a lot to us in the recording process and in support, so it's good to know they're getting it back with new instruments," Frankie said.
"We're very proud," Cooper said.
While they were waiting for the competition results, the band joined forces with the school's year 9 drama class and director Joshua Holliday to film a video clip.
"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," Cooper said.
View the video clip for ‘Unplug and Connect’ below.
To find out more about the ACMF National Songwriting Competition, click here.