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A music class of their own

Dragonfly performs at last Saturday’s regional Smokefree Rockquest final. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

TOM TAYLOR
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The region’s best high school bands battled it out for a place in the next round of the Smokefree Rockquest at the competition’s combined regional heat and finals last Saturday.

As sweet as victory tasted, most performers said the best parts of the contest were the relationships formed with fellow musicians.

Two-time winner of the solo category Meg Hunter said the competition at Carterton Events Centre was worlds away from last year, which took place entirely online due to covid-19.

“It is an incredibly different feeling. You get a lot of energy when you’re performing in front of an audience.”

Production and lighting had helped to liven up the room and gave all acts the chance to perform on a professional stage.

“It’s always amazing having that professional lighting done, and it really does transform that venue.”

Many of Hunter’s Kuranui College friends joined a crowd of more than 100 people to cheer on her and second-placed band Master Key.

“I just felt so much warm support, especially when you’re performing alongside your fellow musicians.”

Hunter joined Master Key guitarist Alex Hartley at all-ages gig Wunder21 earlier this year.

“In Wairarapa we have such a family feel, so at all of these live events I’ve felt so comfortable on stage.”

Wairarapa College and Makoura College band Dragonfly added to their success in a Play It Strange songwriting competition, winning first place in the Rockquest’s band category.

Rhythm guitarist and vocalist Jade Bradnock said their original songs “Fake ID” and “Walk Away” had gone off without a hitch, despite this being the first occasion they had played “Walk Away” live.

“We incorporated everything we had been working on during practices and made sure we enjoyed ourselves,” Bradnock said.

The band members were nervous while awaiting the final results from judges but screamed and hugged each other when the results were announced.

Bradnock shared Hunter’s view that the competition was a great place to meet and take inspiration from other musicians. Hunter’s performance was itself a standout for Bradnock.

“We have watched each other perform for a while now and her stage presence and emotion in her songs keeps getting better every time.”

Bradnock said she was also amazed by second-placed band Master Key.

“Their songs were so groovy and fun. They really know how to get people dancing.”

In a win for all bass players, Master Key’s Amethyst Sutherland won the competition’s musicianship award.

“It’s crazy having a bassist win overall when all the guitarists are doing solos,” Sutherland said.

She described her role in the band as holding everything together and making it easier for everyone to play in time.

Master Key started life as a jazz band at Kuranui College, and still showcased its funkier side with two saxophone players – a rarity among Rockquest bands.

Tenor saxophonist Rowan Higgins said Master Key had received many comments on how “brave” it was to feature two horns in the guitar-heavy competition.

However, Higgins said that horn players were normally the stars of the show when it came to jazz.

“It’s kind of just natural for us, and it gives us our own sound.”

Higgins said Rockquest had helped to build the chemistry within his own group, as well as forming new connections.

“It gives you the opportunity to meet new people, share ideas, and make new friends.”

In the next stage of the competition, first- and second-placed acts in each category submit two more songs by video. From these submissions, judges would select a national Top 30.

The award winners:

Band 1: Dragonfly, Wairarapa College, Makoura College

Band 2: Master Key, Kuranui College

Band 3: Dixon’s List, Rathkeale College

Solo/Duo 1: Meg Hunter, Kuranui College

Solo/Duo 2: Hunter and Daniel, Rathkeale College

People’s Choice: Dragonfly, Wairarapa College

Rockshop Electronic Performance: Max T, Dannevirke High School

Best Vocals: All vocalists from Dragonfly, Wairarapa College

Musicianship: Amethyst Sutherland from Master Key, Kuranui College

ZM Best Song: Dixon’s List, Rathkeale College

APRA Lyric Writers’ Award: Charlie Matthews from charlie and chelsea, Rathkeale College, St Matthew’s Collegiate

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