The ground floor of Whanganui's grand old opera house was packed with enthusiastic teenagers for the Whanganui region's SmokefreeRockquest on June 8.

There were 13 group and solo performances, from 10 Whanganui High School bands and one Ruapehu College band, and solo and duet performances by Rangitīkei College and Whanganui High School pairings.

The winner was In Business, a Whanganui High School band of Faith Solomona, Tomas Bidgood, Christian Garratt and Max Hughes. They described their alt-rock music as simply "loud".

Judge Estere Dalton said they stood out because they worked well together, had a strong kind of energy and made up different parts of a whole.

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"We often hear really great ideas, but it's important that those great ideas are expressed well for the audience. It's definitely a matter of practice makes perfect."

Max Hughes, the 14-year-old drummer, was utterly shocked by the win.

"I was only there to play music. It was just fun. The competition came second," he said.

The second placed band was Ocean Loaf, and third was Kiwi Juice, both also from Whanganui High School.

Winning Whanganui High School alt-rock band In Business is (from left) Christian Garratt, Faith Solomona, Max Hughes and Tomas Bidgood. Photo / supplied
Winning Whanganui High School alt-rock band In Business is (from left) Christian Garratt, Faith Solomona, Max Hughes and Tomas Bidgood. Photo / supplied

Atlas, from Whanganui High School, had the best song and won a recording session at Palmerston North studio The Stomach. A Ruapehu College band of three girls, Altitude, was the most popular with texters and won the people's choice award.

The best vocal performance was by Ariana Kumeroa accompanied by Te Arawa Ratana, both from Rangitīkei College. Dalton said she was a really strong vocalist, and the song the two had written was clearly coming from a place of the heart.

They also won the Tangata Beats award, with Whanganui High School band The Outlaws second. With Atlas and Whanganui High School duo SIDK they get a chance to submit a video and be selected as one of 10 national finalists playing in Auckland in September.

Noah Belchambers was rapt with winning the musicianship award. Photo / supplied
Noah Belchambers was rapt with winning the musicianship award. Photo / supplied

Keyboard player Noah Belchambers, from Whanganui High School, won the musicianship award, and Imogen Maguire, from the same school, won the prize for writing lyrics.

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The music that night ranged from classic hard rock to soul, roots and R'n'B, pop, jazz and even a bit of rap. The band Mangonaise inserted both jazz and rap, and the brightly dressed four from Kiwi Juice appealed with their bouncy "We are the boys from Kiwiland".

The head of music at Whanganui High School, Jeanette Jones, said it was a stand-out occasion, and her fellow teachers Fred Loveridge and Brent Holt were just as proud.

"That was one rock star year. All of those students absolutely rose to the occasion and performed brilliantly last night," she said.

It would have been difficult to choose a winner, and former Palmerston North rockquest winners Fruit Juice Parade had to play several songs while the judges made their decision.

Jones was disappointed not many other schools got involved, but said Whanganui High School has "a fairly healthy rivalry" amongst its own bands. The audience certainly yelled and screamed for their favourites.

The school enters the rockquest, and also chamber music contests, because it gives students a purpose for their music, she said.

"It really works when you have a big audience that you can't lose in front of, and a deadline to write two songs."