FROM the shearing shed to the stage, Lawson Thompson learnt to love music while mustering.
He had his first crack at playing live at an open mic night in Nundle.
It was there he was approached by a woman who told him to sign up for the Academy.
"Actually being able to play in front of people like that, it just amazed me," he said.
The 16-year-old is one of three Tamworth locals in a pool of 21 aspiring singer-songwriters embarking on the CMAA Academy of Country Music junior course.
It's the first time the course has run in its full capacity since 2019, with the 2021 course kept in a closed COVID-safe bubble.
Mentors include director Lyn Bowtell, general manager Roger Corbett, group leaders Ashleigh Dallas, David Carter, Aleyce Simmonds and Liam Kennedy-Clark.
Lawson expects to learn.
"That's all I really want, to see how far I can push myself and my voice and my guitar and see how good I can really get," he said.
"I'm just hoping it'll get me somewhere and if I get an opportunity to do something big, then I'll definitely get a hold of it and hang on to it."
Oxley High School student Matthew Barrett is no stranger to the Tamworth music scene. He competed in the Battle of the Buskers and the Golden Gig at the 2023 Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Despite not placing in the Golden Gig, he was offered a spot at the Academy.
Matthew took early childhood music programs at the Tamworth Regional Conservatorium of Music.
"Music is almost an inherited thing in our family," the 17-year-old said.
"And I'm very lucky to be born to something like that."
Choosing music as a career has been something he's "battled" with.
"But never, ever, ever have I thought of giving it up," he said.
"I do hope to go somewhere with this and really make a name for myself."
The third Tamworth local heading to the Academy, 16-year-old Bella Dior, released debut single One Reason Why in 2022.
The program, running from July 1 to 8, for 14 to 18 year olds, leads up to the Hats Off to Country Festival.
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