IT was love at first sound for Sergio de Pieri.As a little boy growing up in Treviso, northern Italy, Sergio's life changed forever when his parents took him for his first visit to church."I hear the organ for the first time and I was fascinated," he said."I thought I was in heaven."I said to my father and my mother - 'I want to play that thing up there, I want to play that!"'Sergio is now an internationally renowned organist, composer and teacher.He's also the founder and artistic director of the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields festival.The festival, now celebrating its 14th year, began when Sergio visited Australia in 1995 and while traipsing the Victorian goldfields, discovered an untapped wealth."I arrived in Ballarat and one of my students, Judy Houston, was an organist and she said 'we have a lot of historical organs'," Sergio recalled."I saw so many little towns and so many beautiful churches with bluestone and I love the architecture."I said `this is the place to start a new festival'."It was November and Sergio had dreams of launching the festival that January."People were a little bit skeptical. People are on holidays, they go to the beach, they don't go to concerts, they said it will be too hot."A determined Sergio forged ahead and that January the inaugural festival was launched."It started to become bigger and bigger, and people started talking and it became bigger and bigger," he said, laughing.This year the 10-day festival, which runs until next Sunday, features almost 30 fine music recitals across Ballarat, Talbot, Clunes, Gordon and Daylesford.It will showcase award-winning soprano Shu-Cheen Yu, pianist Anthony Halliday, Canadian organist Amy Johansen, Tokyo-based harpsichordist Michele Benuzzi, renowned violinist Miwako Abe and pianist Michael Kieran Harvey, to name a few.And, of course, there's Sergio's performances.Today, Sergio will play the first organ built by George Fincham in Victoria, dating back to 1868. The organ was recently installed in the Talbot Anglican Church.Sergio is passionate about the festival, which he said is not "church music", but music set in beautiful historic churches."I love the beauty of the church. You give me a bluestone church, it is so beautiful," he said."And the organ is the king of the instrument."Sergio's other passion is cooking. His brother is well-known chef Stefano de Pieri, who created Stefano's restaurant in Mildura and the television series A Gondola on the Murray."In Italy, when you have a concert you invite the musician for dinner. It is custom," Sergio said.After evening recitals in Ballarat, Sergio cooks his much-loved Italian dishes for the musicians and those involved in the festival."I cook after the concert for all of the musicians. They love my food."The festival is a lot about food with picnics and dinners."For Sergio, who divides his time between Italy, Ballarat, Melbourne and Mildura each year, the festival is a dream come true."Ballarat is lucky to have the only organ festival in Australia at the moment," he said.Since its inception, the festival has grown from showcasing organs to including strings, bass, woodwind and voice."It is never the same. Somebody said to me 'Sergio can you give me the recipe for your risotto?'"I can't because I change all the time. I can't do all of the same meal, exactly."I change this festival because it will be growing bigger and bigger because I innovate all of the time, I invent something new and something different."This year's festival is expected to be the best ever, with prominent Australian and international exponents of classical music - and a record number of bookings."People say the world at the moment is crazy with the banks in America and people out of work," Sergio said."We have more people at the festival than last year. It's not very much money, $10 or something, and people need maybe to come and listen to this beautiful music and forget other things."