5 December 2023

Kooringal High band Funk Explosion goes one better to blow away judges for SpecFest success

| Jarryd Rowley
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KHS Funk Explosion is still feeling the high of winning top honours at SpecFest. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

Kooringal High School band KHS Funk Explosion has taken home top honours at SpecFest’s Surround Sound music competition.

Surround Sound is held in Sydney for school bands from rural and regional areas. The competition is run during SpecFest, an outdoor school-based music festival that serves as an opener to the famous Schools Spectacular.

Kooringal High music teacher Ashleigh Baker said she was overjoyed at her students’ success.

“The band put in so much time and effort,” she said.

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“We rehearse once a week, every week, all year. Every Thursday afternoon for a couple of hours, students from year 8 to year 12 come together to learn a combination that my helper Austin and I chose.

“Seeing them bring it all together on stage, after losing a number of students from the band that finished second last year, just brought me to tears.”

KHS Funk Explosion began its journey to SpecFest in April. At the start of term 2, the 12-person band sent off an audition recording of its version of Stranger by Miki Fiki to a panel of judges, hoping to be selected in the semi-finals and invited to perform at the festival.

The band was informed in June that it had been chosen as one of seven schools invited to perform at the popular school music festival this past November.

The students explained that they played four songs for the semi-final: their audition song, Koocachoo by Kylie Minogue, Higher Ground by Stevie Wonder and Let Me Entertain You by Robbie Williams.

“We weren’t intimidated at all about getting on stage and performing,” the students said.

“Everyone is so supportive of each other. At the time, it wasn’t about winning, it was about performing as well as we possibly could.”

The supportive mindset of the students paid off as they were selected as one of four schools to perform in the Ruby Final.

Up against the likes of South Grafton High, Karabar School and Moruya High, the KHS students said their confidence never wavered.

“Each of the schools had a different sound,” they explained.

“South Grafton had a bigger band with a bunch of horns, while Moruya was more rock, a lot like Spiderbait.

“It was definitely one of the bigger crowds we performed in front of. We were all so excited to get on stage and I think that showed in our performances.”

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KHS Funk Explosion blew away the judges, bringing home the gold in the Ruby Final and finishing one place higher than in 2022.

Ms Baker was rapt for her charges, saying it was a moment neither she nor the band would forget.

“It was such an awesome moment having the band’s name announced,” she said.

“It all came together through hard work and practice. It was such a wonderful experience and I know all of the school is so happy for them.”

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