Berklee Announces 2024 Songs for Social Change Contest Winners

Student songwriters shine in the annual contest that recognizes music with a socially conscious message.

May 10, 2024

Berklee's Songwriting Department has released the 2024 Songs for Social Change Contest results. The awarded songwriters, participants in the content contest showcase, and those featured on SoundCloud playlist selections or given special mention by the judges come from 12 U.S. states in addition to Ukraine, Kenya, Norway, China, Colombia, Israel, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Canada. 

Since 2008, this annual contest has inspired Berklee students to craft songs that reflect their beliefs on social issues and advocate for positive social change. This year, a select group of students performed their entries at the Songs for Social Change showcase held at the Red Room at Cafe 939 on April 18. The songs recognized in the contest can also be heard on the annual SoundCloud playlist, which is organized by the Songwriting Department.

Talya Ozsardas, First Place

Talya Ozsardas, a double major in songwriting and independent recording and production from both Istanbul, Turkey, and Holon, Israel, secured first place in this year’s contest with her song “Bir Yer Vardi Sanki.” “The song addresses the themes of war and conflict between communities, and ‘Bir Yer Vardi Sanki’ was inspired by all the hate my community and I have been suffering from, for almost eight months. It was my way of dealing with all the painful and tragic things that are happening back home,” Ozsardas explained. “This song started as a single sentence that I couldn’t stop singing for two weeks. I didn’t know what it meant but I kept singing it, until one day I realized how I was longing for the old days . . . back when, in my mind, life was peaceful and beautiful . . . where there was no hate or fear. I really needed to remind myself of those memories to give myself hope for better days.”

Goz Asai and Deven Kamra Lyons, Second Place

Goz Asai and Deven Kamra Lyons, the writers of the song “For Better for Worse,” share a deep connection with evolving technology and its impact on society. Goz Asai, hailing from Redwood City, California, is a songwriting major at Berklee. His writing partner, Deven Kamra Lyons, who goes by Dayvin, comes from Oakville, Ontario, Canada, and is double majoring in songwriting and electronic production and design. Together, they are venturing into the international music scene, writing music for Chinese and Korean artists. “‘For Better for Worse’ is a song encapsulating our feelings about the way AI is going, specifically its development and how it's still morally grey in conversation,” explained Asai. Their collaboration reflects a thoughtful engagement with pressing global issues, mirroring the complexity of the world’s shift toward digital integration.

Caroline Moledor, Third Place

Originating from Roanoke, Virginia, Caroline Moledor, a piano principal majoring in contemporary writing and production, is the third-place winner in this year’s contest. She has been crafting songs for five years, drawing inspiration from Carole King, Ben Folds, and Death Cab for Cutie. Moledor’s entry, “Coat,” addresses the mental health issues prevalent among LGBTQ+ youth. “I wanted [the song] to tell an important story and cause listeners to realize that we all play a part in it,” she explained. “The song urges them to consider, ‘How am I, through my silence or actions, part of the problem? And how can I be better?'”

About the Contest

The Songs for Social Change contest, originally established through a gift from the Luongo family, has received endowed funding from Kevin Block-Schwenk, a professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences Department and at Berklee Online. Block-Schwenk’s contribution of over $300,000 represents the largest donation from a current faculty member. His endowment has augmented the prize amounts, offering $1,800 in 2024 for the first-place winner, $1,500 for second place, $1,200 for third place, as well as a $600 award for showcase performances and a $225 award for songs featured in the SoundCloud playlist. Annually, the contest distributes over $14,000 to nearly 30 student songwriters, through a detailed adjudication process by volunteer faculty judges from across the college, who reviewed more than 140 submissions this year. A cross-departmental faculty team oversees the contest, including contest facilitator Mark Simos (professor, songwriting), showcase coordinator Daniel Cantor (associate professor, music production and engineering), and formsmeister Joe Bennett (professor, professional music, liberal arts and sciences, songwriting).

“I’ve been involved with the Songs for Social Change contest since its beginnings in 2008. Each year, themes of social change and social justice speak more strongly to our student songwriters,” said Simos. “The influence of the annual showcases, the recognition provided by the awards, and steady faculty support—such as incorporating projects into classes for feedback and discussion—has helped increase the quality, depth, and diversity of each year’s roster of songs.”

“A unique aspect of this contest is that it is open-themed: students write about the topics that speak to them, whether from their personal, lived experience or from engaging with empathy for the situations and struggles of others," Simos continued. “So each year’s showcase offers a kind of time capsule, reflecting shifting currents of issues and concerns, always approached from a diversity of perspectives, songwriting styles, and personal voices. That makes the task of judging difficult yet incredibly rewarding: an exercise in inquiry and collaboration, not unlike the creative work of the songwriters themselves.”

2024 Songs for Social Change Contest Winners 

Award Songs:

  • First place: “Bir Yer Vardi Sanki,” Talya Ozsardas (Holon, Israel, and Istanbul, Turkey)
  • Second place: “For Better for Worse,” Goz Asai (Redwood City, California) and Deven Kamra Lyons (Oakville, Canada)
  • Third place: “Coat,” Caroline Moledor (Roanoke, Virginia)

Showcase Songs:

  • “Life Supply,” Skye Harding (Vancouver, Canada)
  • “For the Girls,” Madeline Hensinger (Weston, Connecticut)
  • “阿明_Mr. Ming,” Runqi Li (Henan, China)
  • “Glass (We Just Wanna Be Loved),” Preston Lydotes (North Reading, Massachusetts)
  • “Down,” Katie McLaren (Prince George, Canada)
  • “As a Woman,” Alisa Michel (Morgan Hill, California)
  • “Plastic Bones,” Eva Pukke (Long Island, New York)
  • “Mujeres,” Manuela Sánchez Goubert (Bogotá, Colombia) and Mar Gimenez (Zaragoza, Spain)
  • “Ouroboros,” Genevieve Sull (Chatham, Massachusetts)

SoundCloud Playlist Songs:

  • “HERstory,” Dani Dana (Nairobi, Kenya)
  • “T&A,” Claire Hudson (Dallas, Texas)
  • “Little Warmth,” Haku Kim (Seoul, South Korea)
  • “Information Overload,” Aayushi Kumar (Seattle, Washington), Sho Humphries (Austin, Texas), and Claire Hudson (Dallas, Texas)
  • “Take a Day Off,” Deven Kamra Lyons (Oakville, Canada)
  • “The Service Dog Song,” Jane Leonard (Milton, Massachusetts) 
  • “Love in Motion,” Miriam Maaravi (Seattle, Washington)
  • “My Way,” Destiny Parker (San Diego, California)
  • “It,” Anna Lisa Patti (Cherry Hill, New Jersey)
  • “If It’s Taxed It Ain’t Shine,” Kyle Rannells (Park City, Kentucky)
  • “Silence,” Lilah Sesling (Boston, Massachusetts)
  • “Rely on You,” Julian Villegas (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

Judges’ Shout-Outs:

  • Joe Bennett, Professor, Professional Music, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Songwriting:
    • “The Industry,” Harry Scutt (York, England) and Jamiliee Haddad (Houston, Texas)
  • Dan Cantor, Associate Professor, Music Production and Engineering:
    • “The Service Dog Song,” Jane Leonard (Milton, Massachusetts)
  • Erin Chase, Assistant Professor, Songwriting:
    • “Capitalishit,” Diego Carranza (El Paso, Texas)
  • Isabeau Miller, Assistant Professor, Songwriting:
    • “Her House Doesn’t Feel Like a Home,” Chandler Harris (Greensboro, North Carolina)
  • Bruce Molsky, Visiting Scholar, American Roots Music Program:
    • “As a Woman,” Alisa Michel (Morgan Hill, California)
  • Keli Nicole Price, Associate Professor, Songwriting:
    • “HERstory,” Dani Dana (Nairobi, Kenya)
  • David Reiffel, Assistant Professor, Songwriting, Theater Division, Boston Conservatory at Berklee: 
    • “Ode to Wellstar Hospital,” Katie Olinger (LaGrange, Georgia)
  • Sachi Rodriguez, Assistant Professor, Songwriting:
    • “Blinde Eye,” Tiril Jackson (Senja, Norway) 
  • Mark Simos, Professor, Songwriting:
    • “Ideas,” Vera Arnot (Donetsk, Ukraine)
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