A few weeks ago, in the midst of a wild holiday in a cabin in the north of Scotland, I received a phone call from Amnesty International UK's Human Rights Education Manager to inform me that the protest song which I had entered into their competition, "Power of Our Voices", had been shortlisted and that I was invited to their headquarters in London for an awards ceremony. I was, to say the least, delighted.
I had begun writing the song, Death Row, in September 2011. The week that I had started to write it, Troy Davis was executed in Georgia after almost 20 years on death row. I was struck by the horrific nature of his sentencing. I believe that the death penalty is wrong in all circumstances, but Troy Davis's case was particularly chilling. After his initial trial, witnesses had admitted that they had lied in their evidence against him. This meant that there was no concrete evidence to suggest that Troy Davis was guilty of the crime, meaning that a potentially innocent man had just been killed, despite more than a million people signing a petition and loudly protesting against his sentence as part of a high-profile campaign.
Troy Davis's story moved me so much that I decided to base my composition, which was originally written for chamber choir and bass drum, on his story. I used my own lyrics, my own adaption of a poem by Jeffrey C Doughtie, a death row inmate in Texas who was executed in 2001, and Troy Davis's last words, combined with a haunting melody and an audio clip of a newsreader announcing his death, to portray his horrific fate as best I could.
The work had already been completed when I saw an advertisement in Amnesty International UK's quarterly magazine for their competition, "Power of Our Voices". The competition was encouraging secondary school students from across the UK to write a protest song or lyrics to a protest song about a human rights issue which they felt strongly about. This was the perfect opportunity for me to showcase my composition. Little did I know that it would place me in London just three months later.
The awards ceremony was a very inspiring, rewarding experience. We were given a tour of Amnesty International UK's headquarters and were introduced to many of their staff who were, at that very moment, involved in some of the world's most major human rights issues. It was a chance for me and other young people like me to meet each other and discuss our passion for human rights and music.
The day gave me hope that young people do care about human rights. To tell the truth, I know very few young people who are outspoken about this passion. This is why I think it is so wonderful that Amnesty International UK has started this competition, as it is encouraging young people to express their views on human rights issues through what I think is the most powerful medium to do so - music.
My success in the competition has given me confidence in my song-writing skills and encouragement to continue voicing my opinion on human rights issues. It has inspired me to set up an Amnesty youth group at my school, which I am currently in the process of doing. It even led to my performance in an evening of songs of peace and struggle hosted by renowned Scottish singer-songwriter, Karine Polwart
But most importantly, my success in the competition has given me encouragement for my future career. I have known for a while that I want to study music when I leave school. Now I know that I want to incorporate my passion for human rights into this, as I now know that this is possible.