At a time when Vietnam War demonstrations raged on Central Campus, one trombonist holed himself up in the Bursley Residence Hall practice rooms, dreaming of someday playing for one of the world’s premier orchestras.
Thousands of practice hours later, David Finlayson is returning to Hill Auditorium this weekend as a trombone player with the New York Philharmonic. This will be the first time the Philharmonic has performed in Ann Arbor since 1972 — the year Finlayson started his undergraduate career at the University’s School of Music.
Although Finlayson, currently the sole University alum in the Philharmonic, has spent a considerable amount of time at Hill Auditorium watching concerts and playing with other orchestras, this will be the first time he will have played in the hall since its recent renovation.
“I’m anxious to see Hill Auditorium since the remodel,” he said. “It’s a fabulous place to play. There’s something about its shape that somehow yields such a rich sound.”
However, it wasn’t the world-famous hall that drew Finlayson to Ann Arbor for his undergraduate degree. The School of Music has an excellent reputation, and after being accepted, he enrolled as a music education concentrator. But after a band educators gathering at the Michigan League, Finlayson realized his calling.
“(At the time), I knew when I was 30 years old, I would have regretted not giving it a shot — not being a professional musician,” he said. Finlayson switched from music education to performance.
After a stint with the National Symphony Orchestra based in Washington, Finlayson won a spot in the New York Philharmonic in 1985.
When the Philharmonic, which is now under the baton of music director Lorin Maazel, comes to town this weekend, it will perform pieces from four of the most recognizable composers in classical music.
On Sunday, the Philharmonic will play Bart