Every year, bands and solo/duo acts from schools all over the nation come together to perform at New Zealand’s most exciting music event, Smokefreerockquest.

Smokefreerockquest is an annual live music competition for New Zealand youth. It provides young musicians with the opportunity to make their start in New Zealand’s music industry, allowing them to perform their music in a professional setting.

Founded in 1989 by Glenn Common and Pete Rainey, who were school music teachers, it has become a nationwide event promoting 100% homegrown talent. With over 3,000 young people performing in 650 acts across 24 towns, Smokefreerockquest is the hottest ticket to New Zealand’s music scene.

Carlos McQuillan of Head Chef, the dub/roots four-piece band from Wellington that won last year’s nationals explains: “Even if you don’t make the national final, entering SFRQ is a great thing to do, because you get to perform with other kids doing the thing they love, just like you… and you can learn so much from just watching everyone around you.”

Smokefreerockquest not only gives young artists a key to enter New Zealand’s vibrant and diverse music scene, it promotes the positive message of ‘Smoking – Not our Future’. Smokefree New Zealand – which aims for a Smokefree Aotearoa by 2025 – is a naming sponsor of the event.

Smokefreerockquest also helps youth to meaningfully engage and connect to their schools, peers and communities, while developing new skills and aspirations.

So, how does it work? With so many musical acts involved, it isn’t as simple as picking up a guitar and singing; you have to work hard. 2014’s solo/duo national winner Georgia Lines says: “It’s the whole package – it’s about what you say, what you wear, the style of music you play, the angle of the keyboard… everything has to be thought through because it all adds to being memorable.”

There are two categories you can enter into; bands or solo/duo. The first stage is the Regional Heats, the top acts from which go through to the Regional Finals. The top two bands and solo/duo acts are then given the opportunity to submit a 15-minute video, to be judged by the industry’s top professionals. The top 30 nationwide will be picked, and a new panel of judges will select 9 bands and solo/duo acts to perform at the National Finals on 11 September. The 2015 winners will then be crowned.

Not only does Smokefreerockquest give talented youngsters exposure and invaluable experience, the winning acts get some very sweet prizes. Apart from the opportunity to enter the music scene, they’ll get a $10,000 (band) or $3,000 (solo/duo) Rockshop voucher, a $20,000 recording and video package from NZ on Air, radio promotional support, video play on Four, a 7-day tour to Fiji and lots more.

Smokefreerockquest is not something you want to miss. The acts performing are the future of New Zealand’s ever-growing music scene. So, what are you waiting for? Check out the website  for everything you need to know, and stay tuned to TEARAWAY for our ongoing coverage.