Nineteen acts will rock the Royal Wanganui Opera House tonight at the Smokefreerockquest Whanganui regional finals.

Of that crop of the best high school bands and solo acts from around the region, the top two will be chosen to go into the judging pool for a spot at the national finals in September.

Whanganui High School dominate the bill with 11 acts, while the remaining eight come from other Whanganui and Marton high schools.

For two Cullinane College acts, Eden Kyle and Gabrielle O'Connell as Backyard Duo, and solo act Maria Scaletti, it will be their first time on the Rockquest stage.

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Backyard Duo have been playing music together for about four years and the pair, like all the acts, have an original song lined up for tonight.

"It's about a person finding another person that they love," Eden said.

The duo have played live before but this will be by far their biggest audience.

"We just thought we'd enter it for fun; to do something out of our comfort zone. [Music] just gives you a good vibe.

"I've grown up around music so it's part of me now."

Meanwhile, Maria will be performing a song called Broken Innocence about someone she met while travelling overseas.

"I guess the beauty of a song is that it can be taken in any way," she said.

"I just want to do the best I can do. It's my last year at school so the last opportunity to do something like this.

Rockquest founder and director Glenn Common said the benefits of meeting fellow musicians and playing to a live audience could not be overstated.

"Becoming a performing artist is not a one-day project.

"It's a long road until you're writing the sort of songs that help to shape a nation's identity, as some past Smokefreerockquest winners, like Anika Moa and Jason Kerrison, have done."

Rockquest starts at 7pm at the Royal Wanganui Opera House.

-Tickets are available at the venue.