NORTHFIELD — Jeff Toth has been marching to his own beat for years, and this Friday, the Mainland Regional High School junior will share that beat, performing in New Brunswick in the New Jersey Shout Down Drugs competition.

The 17-year-old penned an original song, “This is the Day you Walk Away,” for the statewide competition. Toth is the Atlantic County representative and will perform along with 13 others at a concert in the Nicholas Music Center at Rutgers University.

The winner will receive a performance contract worth $5,000 and the opportunity to play at six statewide events. Toth said he is excited about the chance to compete and be heard by a wider audience.

“The most important thing is getting new people to hear you, and the exposure playing at events all over the state would be great,” said Toth.

His song, written for the competition, took him a little more than a day to complete. Toth said the requirements were to write a three-minute song with a strong prevention message. It had to be original lyrics and music. Judging is based on lyrics, melody and overall song quality.

“I began to write poems and found something I liked and made it into song lyrics. I started to play around with my guitar and something I liked. Most focus on something bad and what happens in the wake of drug use. They focus on the negative,” said Toth. “It is not unique to say drugs are bad, drugs are bad.”

He said his song exalts "self-expression and how beautiful your soul already is without tampering with it and before contaminating it with drugs.” He added he knows friends and family members who fell into drugs and depression.

Each competitor had to turn in one recording with the lyrics and music and another with just the music so they could hear the quality of the music. Toth will be performing solo, but the competition also features duos and groups.

When Toth isn’t playing guitar or one of his other instruments, he is often in the studio he and his dad, also named Jeff, have opened at their home, Roxwood Music, where they have worked with more than 40 young musicians. Toth said at Roxwood they are able to offer quality studio time to emerging young bands and performers at a price they can manage.

“One big stumbling block for so many young bands is the cost of producing their music and putting together an album so they get heard. We are doing that, and we are growing the number of bands and performers at Roxwood,” said Toth.

The young musician is a seasoned performer and plays on the Ocean City Boardwalk, at the Ocean City Coffee Co., open-mic nights at Ventnor Coffee, Nashville North Studio's Fourth Friday event, and is scheduled for the June 3 Ventnor Porch Fest. He is self-taught on guitar, piano, bass, ukulele and vocals.

When Toth is not working on his pitch, he is working on his pitching, as he is a member of the Mainland Mustangs baseball team. He played Eddie the police officer in Mainland's spring musical, “Sister Act.” Academically, he is taking Advanced Placement courses in calculus, English and world history. He took Mainland teacher Chuck Penza’s songwriting and music theory classes last year and really enjoyed them, and in the summer Toth is a counselor at Camp Haluwasa in Hammonton, where he said he gets to spend his summer playing guitar and working with kids.

For additional information on the competition, visit shoutdowndrugs.com.

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Contact Suzanne Marino at marino@catamaranmedia.com