Published: Feb 04, 2014 5:49 PM EST
Updated: Feb 05, 2014 12:41 PM EST

NAPLES, Fla. - Music echoes through the walls of Allie Ross' Golden Gate home every day; each note leading to Tuesday night's performance, when her son debuts on one of the world's biggest stages.

Joshua Ross, 24, has been playing piano since he was six.  He's developed an impressive repertoire in the last 18 years, and he has his favorites.

"Beethoven.  Pretty much any of his sonatas," Ross says.  "And then Rachmaninoff has a lot of preludes that I like.  Mozart has a ton of sonatas, as well.  Chopin has his scherzos."

"It's really just about feeling the moment, feeling the emotion," Ross says.  "Every piece of music has a story to it."

Josh Ross has his own story, as well. 

Opportunity didn't always come easy for the young musician.  Ross was encouraged by his mother, who sang in church on Sundays. He calls her his inspiration.

"She has a strong work ethic," Ross says.  "She was a single mother, and she raised me and my sister."

And no surprise, she's his biggest fan.

"Every concert he plays, I cry," Allie Ross says. "When I see him playing, I see the six-year-old who would scoot across the bench, whose feet weren't long enough to reach the pedal."

The family's living room is a study in evolution.  Next to a shiny, new grand piano is an old, used upright.  Pictures line the top of the older instrument, a reminder of how far Ross has come.

Allie Ross bought the piano 18 years ago for $400.  She didn't want to tell her son they couldn't afford it.

"When I saw that it was his life, I made arrangments," Allie Ross says.  "I made changes. I went without some things... so I would have money for his piano lessons.  Because I knew this day was coming."

So did some of Josh's teachers.

"I'm not surprised," says Gulf Coast High School band director Steve Deladurantey. "Not at all.  Josh is one of those kids that's going to go a long way."

Deladurantey remembers Ross as his band drum major in 2006, when he taught a few miles away at Golden Gate High.

"Everybody knew that Josh was a fantastic piano player," he says.  "The entire school knew.  Kids that weren't even in band knew who Josh was... You just knew that he was something special."

Ross credits his band director with teaching him confidence, and piano teacher Julie McFarland with teaching him to be an original.

"He was such a hard worker from the very beginning," McFarland remembers. "He'd learn the work the way it was supposed to be, and then take it and put his own idea and his own spin on it."

Last year, Ross entered the American Protege International music competition.  He was stacked against pianists from all over the world.  His performance pleased judges, earning him "Honorable Mention," and an invitation to play with other winners at Carnegie Hall on February 4th.

Ross says it's a dream come true.

"I always thought I had the ability.  I just needed to find a way to get there," he says.  "It took a lot of research, and a lot of practice."

Ross recently graduated from the University of Georgia with his Masters Degree.  After his Carnegie Hall debut, he'll return to practicing; this time, for a spot in the doctoral programs at either Georgia or Florida State.

Ross' advice for other young musicians?

"Always follow your dreams," he says. "Never feel like you can't do something.  Because you can."