Dominic Lee first heard the cello played live in a Tauranga living room. He was eight years old.
"We were at my mum's friends' house and their son was practising," Lee told the Bay of Plenty Times.
"I was a bit energetic as a kid but I sat still in front of him and watched him play for a whole hour. I didn't move at all."
For Lee, it was love at first sound.
"I personally think the cello is the closest in range to the human voice. When I play the cello people are able to connect with it personally."
However, Lee soon discovered chasing his dream wasn't easy.
"It was difficult with the limited resources [and difficult] to find a teacher to learn from," Lee said.
He had been taking lessons for about three years when he attended a Tauranga masterclass taught by concert cellist and New Zealand School of Music lecturer Inbal Megiddo.
"I was ten or 11 years old. There were 50 cellos in one room. I don't know how she could have heard me."
Megiddo approached Lee after the class and offered him a private lesson, an opportunity Lee was excited to accept.
"[The day after my lesson] she called my house at 5.00am and asked my parents if she could pop by before her flight."
Then things got a little unreal.
"She said she believed in my talent and potential," Lee said.
"She thought I had a special voice."
Megiddo offered to teach Lee and find someone to sponsor Lee's travel to Christchurch every two weeks for lessons. Lee agreed.
"I remember from a very young age I learnt what time management was and how to get my priorities right."
Lee spent four days in Christchurch fortnightly, juggling his music studies with school at Bethlehem College.
The hard work paid off. In 2013, at 16, Lee entered and won the top prize at his first international competition: Italy's Valsesia Musica.
One year later he accepted a spot at Eastman School of Music under the supervision of Steven Doane.
"[Working with Steven] opened my musical eyes to things I've never experienced before. He's been like a cello father to me."
Now Lee at 24 years old has performed in music festivals across four continents and shared stages with famous musicians he's admired for years.
But while Lee describes his Carnegie Hall debut as "quite meaningful", he remembers one smaller concert at a school for children with special needs that made a lasting impact on him.
"They reacted to the music so organically. They danced. They moved. They made their own sounds.
"It reminded me that music is such a powerful tool that it is able to bring so much emotion, healing and joy to people."
Lee had time to reflect on this lesson in recent months after Covid-19 led to his return home.
"Coming back to New Zealand gave me a chance to hit pause and think of my purpose as a musician.
"I now kind of think that my life is the real instrument."
Lee hopes his next concert will put all he's learned into action.
On July 3 at Trinity Wharf, Lee will come full circle and perform an entire concert as a duo with his former teacher, Inbal Megiddo.
"I hope to give back," Lee said.
"The purpose of this concert is to bring the community together. The music will be able to work as a seed in the audience's heart, a seed that will grow into something meaningful for peoples' lives."
The concert, produced by Lee's new organisation Kingdom Performing Arts, will also include three rapid-fire interviews with under-thanked members of the Tauranga community.
"I want to be able to make it known that music is a precious gift and it's meant to be shared."
If circumstances permit, Lee plans to share music with the city of Los Angeles next.
He's been offered a place in the studio of Ralph Kirshbaum at the University of Southern California. Lee hopes to make it back to the United States to join Kirshbaum in September.
But the homegrown cello prodigy promises he will be back.
"Long term, I feel a calling to New Zealand."
• What: New Zealand Cello Duo Concert
Where: Trinity Wharf 51 Dive Crescent, Tauranga 3110
When: 7.30pm July 3
Tickets available at: Wang Tauranga (7 Christopher Street) or Eventbrite