ONE minute he was captaining his school's cricket team and the next he was bowing out so he could appear in a school musical.
Now 23, Damian Arnold of Rockdale has had to choose between his two passions — sport or singing.
"I spent my childhood being completely engulfed in the sporting world, spending nearly every afternoon and weekend playing sport with the hope of becoming a professional sportsman," Arnold said.
He was good enough to take part in the under-12 and under-15 cricket national championships.
But having performed in the Marist College Canberra's musicals Oklahama! and Jesus Christ Superstar, the pull of the world of entertainment became stronger as he became older.
"I always loved the musical Les Miserables, and one day when I was about 16 I was mimicking the police inspector Javert, who pursues the musical's hero Jean Valjean," Arnold said.
Arnold's mother heard her son and encouraged him to take singing lessons.
"As I started singing it became more of a focus in my life," he said.
Arnold went on to study at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music which he left last year, and more recently he toured with the Opera Australia Schools Company, where he played Prince Charming in Cinderella.
He particularly likes Verdi for his powerful music and he finds Verdi's writing for tenors to be "particularly exciting".
He hopes to one day also sing Puccini.
He is one of 10 semi-finalists about to compete in Australia's richest singing competition.
As the only tenor competing he will sing Non t'amo piu (I No Longer Love You) written by Francesco Paolo Tosti, and the beginning of Handel's Messiah.
The 34th IFAC Australian Singing Competition (ASC) is for opera and classical singers under 26.
The nine other semi-finalists are from interstate and New Zealand and this year for the first time one of them will win a $5000 Judith Ward Lieder Scholarship.
There are also career-building awards valued at more than $200,000 and the prestigious Marianne Mathy Award.
After the semi-finals narrow the field to five finalists, these will take part in a concert in October when the winner will be announced.
The concert will be at the Independent Theatre, 269 Miller Street, North Sydney, on Sunday, August 30 at 4.30pm. Cost: Adults $25 and concession $15.
Bookings: theindependent.org.au or 1300 302 604.