Soak up Surround Sounds at Schools Spec

A battle of NSW’s best regional and remote school bands will be more than just a side gig at the Schools Spectacular. Glenn Cullen reports.

Image: Cowra High School's PlusOne will be one of the bands to watch at Surround Sounds, part of the Schools Spectacular.

Even the best main acts lean more than just a little on their support, and the eagerly anticipated Schools Spectacular is no different.

Returning to Qudos Bank Arena from Friday for the first time since 2019, the Schools Spectacular will feature around 4,700 student performers from across the state.

And like most good musical experiences, there’ll be Surround Sound; in this instance the name of the rural and remote band competition for secondary students that features in the lead-up to the Spectacular as part of ‘SpecFest’.

First launched in 2021, Surround Sound only got through its first round auditions that year due to COVID-19, but is full tilt for 2022 as the Department of Education seeks to uncover the top bands from the regions.

The diversity of bands and areas represented is impressive.

Cowra High School is getting a little bit country with their band PlusOne which was a finalist at the Parkes Elvis Festival Buskers Competition and is heavily booked on the local circuit.

They will be joined by seven other finalists: Byron Bay High School (Stereo), Mulwaree High School (M Funk), Moruya High School (Strawberry Chords), South Grafton High School (Crumbs in the Bed), Albury High School (Lucey), Kooringal High School (KHS Funk Explosion) and Toormina High School (Minor Issues).

The eight bands made it through a round of video auditions across the state, performing covers and originals across a range of genres from blues, ‘60s pop, hard rock, funk, punk and surf rock.

A panel of music specialists had the challenging work of choosing the eight finalists that would get the opportunity to perform at the forecourt of Qudos Bank Arena on Friday 25 November and through the weekend.

When the finalists were decided, a team of industry professional musicians travelled to each school from July to November.

Travelling to the far reaches of the state, the team worked with teachers and bands to shortlist their set for the finals, providing invaluable advice on instrumental technique, working together as a team and presenting an exciting and engaging performance. 

Tutors included highly sought-after drummer and Schools Spectacular professional rhythm section member Pete Skelton; independent singer/songwriter, Schools Spectacular alumni Imogen Clark; brass specialist and musical director Richard Sandham; drummer and percussionist Cameron Gregory, and Dan Maher, freelance touring and session guitarist who has toured with artists including Delta Goodrem, Rita Ora and Samantha Jade.

“(The tutors) worked with the girls on all aspects of their performance, from musical techniques through to stage presence and ensemble communication. The girls demonstrated a renewed strength in their performance as a result of the day,” said teacher David Tweedie from Moruya High School.

Semi-finals for Surround Sound 2022 will be held on Friday 25 November and the finals on Saturday 26 November as part of SpecFest 2022. Each band will perform a 10-minute performance set on each day.

For more information about Schools Spectacular and the SpecFest see: and for tickets: or

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