Brian Castles-Onion is proof that the sky is the limit when it comes to living out your dreams on an international stage.
The musician from Cessnock is recognised as one of Australia's most renowned opera conductors and pianists.
Castles-Onion said growing up in the Hunter Valley played an integral part in developing a passion for music.
"My mother was a dress-maker in Cessnock and would listen to Scottish records as she was making dresses," he said.
"I suppose I would listen to those and I got a taste for it."
Castles-Onion was introduced to playing music at a young age when family friends offered up an old piano and asked whether he would like it.
"My parents had no musical background whatsoever so it [the piano] sat in our living room," he said.
"When I was four I asked for piano lessons – my mother thought it would be a seven-day wonder, but it lasted."
From that moment onwards, Castles-Onion's young life went on to revolve around piano lessons, attending school at Cessnock High and listening to opera recordings.
After graduating, he went on to study at Newcastle Conservatorium of Music and secured a place with Opera Australia.
Since then, he has worked with the prestigious New York Metropolitan Opera and the Rossini Festival in Italy, as well as teaching at the Juilliard School of music in New York.
Castles-Onion will return to Cessnock next weekend to compere and conduct Opera in the Vineyards held at Roche Estate, Pokolbin.
He said he is looking forward to introducing opera to a new audience in his hometown.
"I enjoy bringing my life and my enjoyment of opera to people who have no preconceived ideas of how music should be," Castles-Onion said.
"Lots of people who have been to these vineyard performances have become regular attendees... so it's great to present something that is of a wonderful standard that gives the audience the bug for it."
Castles-Onion said that the show attempts to make the world of opera accessible to those with all levels of musical experience.
"I introduce each piece and sometimes it's in a humorous way, because some of the music is in a foreign language and it needs to be accessible to the audience," he said.
"Opera is the best of all theatre, I think, because there is music, acting, singing and it's grand looking and you can be totally carried into this new world."
When the curtain closes on Saturday night, Castles-Onion said he plans to catch up with old friends in Cessnock and visit his mother's old house near Cessnock Hospital.
"I'll also go and see my Cessnock Hall of Fame plaque on Vincent Street," he said.
"My mother accepted it for me (in 2008) while she was still alive.
"I'm very proud of it."
Opera in the Vineyards is on Saturday, October 8 at Roche Estate. Tickets are available at operainthevineyards.com.au or call 9960 2411.
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