A young singer from Mumbai has been earmarked for stardom after winning a place at one of the world’s top performing schools.

Oscar Castellino is one of only five students from around the globe, and the only Indian to secure a position at London’s Royal College of Music this year. He left earlier this month for London to begin his training there.

The Royal College has had a distinguished list of alumni since its foundation in 1882. The names include Gustav Holst, Benjamin Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Neville Mariner, Trevor Pinnock,  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, and guitarist John Williams.

Castellino’s scholastic and work background are rooted heavily in the sciences: he studied physics at St. Xavier’s College Mumbai, topped the All-India test in Advanced Computing, and became a software developer. However, his first love has always been western classical singing. He was constrained by a lack of training and the scope to pursue this interest in India. Castellino valiantly juggled a corporate career and his passion for music, performing frequently with the Stop Gaps Choral Ensemble Mumbai and other choral groups.

His big break came barely a year ago, when he signed on for the “Giving Voice toIndia” vocal-training programme conducted by world-acclaimed soprano Patricia Rozario in Mumbai. She immediately spotted the potential in his baritone voice. “I have been very impressed with his progress and commitment. Oscar is hardworking and quick at learning music, good at languages and possesses an excellent memory.”

Rozario worked intensively with Castellino over the past year, and he acknowledges her as the most important contributor to his progress. A scholarship enabled him also to attend a masterclass in Salzburg, Austria with famed baritone Tom Krause and pianist Norman Shetler, who both felt he showed tremendous promise.

Castellino competed with seasoned singers from all over the world for a place at both, the Royal College of Music, and Trinity College of Music London. Remarkably, he secured admission into both institutions. Castellino chose the former. As expected, the competition he faced was formidable. “Over 600 singers from around the world attempted to get into the Royal College of Music, for just five places”, he recalls.

This is a commendable achievement, and raises India’s profile on the western classical map.

Castellino has worked hard to get to this point. He took language courses to improve his ability to sing the classical repertoire, which is largely in Italian, German and French. He widened his knowledge of the operatic repertoire by listening to full operas, having downloaded translations of their libretti. This is quite exceptional commitment in any terms, but more so in a student coming from India, where there is little emphasis on western music, still less on song and opera.

The financial cost of studying abroad is onerous, and Castellino is grateful that three Indian companies have sponsored his first year of training. “I am confident I will get help for the coming years as well”, he says.

“I am excited at the prospect of receiving the best training the world has to offer, and to interact with stalwarts in the operatic and singing world. I think singers from India have a lot to contribute. I hope I can be an example to other youth, to pursue what they truly love, and are best at”.