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Twenty Five Years of Smokefreerockquest

Twenty Five Years of Smokefreerockquest

Around 700 entrants every year, regional heats and finals in towns from Invercargill to Whangarei, and a legacy that includes some of the greatest names on the Kiwi music scene, from Kimbra to Nesian Mystik and from Ladyhawke to OpShop.

This year Smokefreerockquest (SFRQ) celebrates its 25th anniversary. Founders and directors Pete Rainey and Glenn Common have seen the event come a long way since they staged their first contest back in 1989, when they were music teachers in Christchurch.

“Our students had really benefitted from entering a contest run by a local radio station, and when the station pulled out we decided to run the event ourselves,” Glenn Common recalls. “We’d have been pretty surprised then if we’d been told that 25 years later that the event would be still going, it would have become our careers, that it would be New Zealand’s biggest youth participation event, and the country’s only nationwide, live, all original music competition.”

Highlights in SFRQ’s 25 year history include going nationwide in 1990, forming the naming rights sponsorship relationship with Smokefree in 1991, Anika Moa becoming the first solo national finalist in 1998, the 2005 national final where Midnight Youth, Kimbra, the Electric Confectionnaires, Rival State and The Hendersons (aka the Eversons) played off, and 2008 when the 20th anniversary retro concert in the Christchurch Town Hall featured Minuit, Evermore and other SFRQ success stories.

SFRQ has spanned technological change from four track reel-to-reel machines and cassettes through to the smart phone-facebook era where students can capture and edit audio and video, and get it out to the world; and has seen social change with kids now more confident and more knowledgeable about music.

Pete and Glenn say there is now a huge and growing family of Smokefree-rockquesters - young people who have gone through the contest, have gained skills and confidence and are now using those in their careers, whether this is performing and writing, or teaching, working in music production, promotion, journalism, radio, television, graphic design or even politics.

SFRQ 2013 launches on May 11 with heats in Nelson, more heats and finals in 23 regions over the next two months, with the national final set for Saturday September 28 in Auckland.

This year there are separate categories for solo/duo acts and bands. The top two solo/duos will be selected at the heats. They will play off at the regional finals and will both go into the judging pool for the national final.

“We’ll have regional winners in the solo/duo section and the band section, and the same at the national final,” Glenn explains. “There will be more winners and more prizes and it means neither category will feel overlooked.

Glenn says this change has been made in response to comments from entrants and teachers, and brings SFRQ more in line with NCEA assessments where bands are assessed separately.

The regional events run every weekend until 13 July, then the top regional bands and solo/duos submit videos for selection as national finalists. Smokefreerockquest, powered by Rockshop, has national winners’ prize packages for bands and the solo/duo winners, that include musical gear to a total value of $13,000 from NZ Rockshops and their suppliers, inclusion on the NZ On Air Kiwi Hit Disc, radio promotional support, and video play on youth music channel FOUR. There is also the MAINZ Scholarship for outstanding musicianship, the APRA Lyric Award, the Lowdown Best Song Award, the Smokefree Women’s Musicianship Award and the Skinny People’s Choice voted by text with the opportunity to open the SFRQ National final.

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