Essex County News

Essex County Junior Sings Her Way to Los Angeles for the Grammy Awards

Renee Levine

SHORT HILLS, NJ - For most Millburn-Short Hills residents the 59th annual Grammy Awards begin on Sunday, February 12th, when CBS' opening commercials conclude and James Corben addresses the cameras with his opening joke of the night. However, one talented Millburn High School student used her songwriting skills to win a trip to the Grammy rehearsals and mingle with top level music producers.  

MHS Junior Renee Levine will attend the Grammy rehearsals backstage with her parents after placing second in the seventh annual GRAMMY Foundation®, and MusiCares® Teens Make Music Contest. For the contest, the GRAMMY Foundation® and MusiCares® partnered with The Drug-Free Kids' Above the Influence Campaign. 

"We’re thrilled to recognize these individuals for shedding light on the realities of substance use disorders and what being above the influence of negative pressures means to them," said Marcia Lee Taylor, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, in an interview with

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The contest asked students between the ages of 14-18 to compose an original song, celebrating life above the influence, or warning the audience of the dangers of substance abuse. Levine’s “Paralyzed,” tells the story of an addict who seeks moments of “paradise” through substance use. The song goes on to say that her “paradise” is in fact “paralyzing” her. 

“I feel like the commonality between people in our school system that do do drugs, and people our age, in general, feel like they need to be intoxicated or high or under the influence in order to have fun,” Levine said. “For me, what I want to do is spread the message that ‘you can have fun being substance free’”. 

Levine has been singing and songwriting alongside her sister since she was five years old. After her parents signed her up for lessons, she immediately found a passion for instruments and songwriting. Unlike modern techno tracks, Levine aims to spread messages through her music. “Song writing is stating the obvious but in the most original way”. 

As it turns out, Levine may have been the most qualified teen to spread this message. Using her meaningful style of song, Levine was able to rearticulate the lessons her mother, a social worker, and her father, a doctor, made clear to her throughout her childhood. Each day, Mr. and Mrs. Levine treat patients in need of drug and alcohol recovery. At an early age, Levine was able to understand the importance of taking care of one’s body.  

Levine’s wisdom and ability propelled her to second place in the national competition. Her high placement has earned her $250, courtesy of the Visions Adolescent Treatment Center, tours of recording studios, and of course, Grammy rehearsal backstage passes. However, what excites her most is the opportunity to network with producers, and others involved in the music industry.

Levine will be interviewed by active producers, allowing them the opportunity to learn more about her music, and what it has to offer.

“My ultimate goal is an aspiring singer/songwriter is to make people feel like they are being represented, that their voice is being heard, and to make my mark on the world. My dream is to have people know my name and think ‘Wow, she really made a difference in the world with her music’”.

Levine’s award-winning song “Paralyzed” can be heard on the at

More of Levine’s work can be found on SoundCloud under “Renee Audrey” and on YouTube under “Renee Audrey originals.”

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