Sal, the Star

Picture courtesy of Sal Finnochairo

Sal Finocchiaro, originally from Clifton, NJ, is a junior Biomedical Engineering student at Stevens, as well as the new concertmaster of the Stevens Orchestra. His beginnings in music occurred as early as third grade. Finocchiaro was between choosing the cello and the violin, but he ended up taking the latter. “I chose the violin because it gets more of a spotlight. The cello is nice. Maybe one day I will go back and learn a bit of cello, but I was interested in violin at first,” he explains.

From there, Finocchiaro worked his way up from playing in a strings ensemble to playing with a full orchestra in high school. Finocchiaro admits that once in high school, “[t]hat’s where it kinda got intense.” He adds, “It was fun. It was a good intense.”

“When I’m playing music, I sometimes feel that adrenaline rush during some sections that are really fast, but then, there are the slower sections—those are nice too. There’s a good sense of variation in music.”

“I was kinda the star,” he says, referring to his formative years as a musician. From the start, Finocchiaro admits that he had a knack for music and playing the violin. Finocchiaro played first violin for most of his years as a violinist. With the encouragement of teachers and a love for music, Finocchiaro made sure to keep music in his life. Through the years, Finocchiaro has learned a number of things from insightful violin teachers. One piece of advice is to slow down. Although Finocchiaro always wanted to play difficult pieces, his teacher would remind him to start off small and to take it from there. With this new approach to learning, Finocchiaro made quick progress with violin.

In addition to his love for music, Finocchiaro has always been drawn to math and science. Finocchiaro is also passionate about curing cystic fibrosis, a disease that affects an individual’s lungs. Finocchiaro explains, “The disease can be fatal, so I want to do research in that field [and] contribute to the cure.” Finocchiaro adds, “That’s why I chose [biomedical engineering], and that’s why I’m still doing this to this day.”

As with any major at Stevens, there are challenges. “Biomed is tough. It’s a lot to remember,” Finocchiaro says. “[There is] a lot of math, but it’s an interesting field.” Despite the hardships that come with studying biomedical engineering, Finocchiaro believes wholeheartedly that the struggles are worth it. Finocchiaro explains, “I love when things click and come together. It’s like you study something for so long, and then all of a sudden it makes sense.” Finocchiaro adds, “I like those aha-moments. That’s what drives me forward.”

The idea of striving for these bursts in understanding can be related to music. As a violinist, Finocchiaro has to find ways to puzzle through difficult sections and find ways to perfect these parts. Through the hours of practicing, tremendous outcomes can occur. Finocchiaro explains that “one day, you finally get it right [and] it’s such a good feeling to finally get it.”

As the new Concertmaster of the Stevens Orchestra, Finocchiaro explains that there is a bit of pressure to the esteemed position in the orchestra. He says, “Everyone is following you, so you have to be the example.” According to Finocchiaro, being an effective Concertmaster takes balance. There are some that are strict and some that are more laid-back. Finocchiaro says that a good concertmaster is one that is in between the two. Similarly to working collaboratively in a group, a Concertmaster has to be strict to get work done and to motivate the section, but not to the point where people become disinterested in the task at hand. Finocchiaro states that there needs to be a “happy medium” in leading a musical section.

Throughout his years as a violinist, Finocchiaro has enjoyed playing the works of Mozart, Beethoven, and Prokoviev. Among his favorite pieces is Mozart’s Violin concerto no. 4, which has a cadenza violin solo that is technically challenging, yet beautiful. Although music can be challenging, it serves as a great teacher. Through playing the violin and studying music, Finocchiaro has learned discipline and the benefits of practicing. By being fluent in the language of music, one has another way to express oneself. Finocchiaro explains, “[Music] is an art. Playing music is my outlet, and no one can say anything about it. It’s me.”

Music can be one thing to one person and another thing to another person. Music can be for fun. Finocchiaro says, “Don’t worry too much about making everything perfect—it’s for fun. [Music is] a good outlet, and it can keep you grounded, too.”

In the future, Finocchiaro wants to have a musical tour with an orchestra around the world. He also wants to skydive—I mean, who wouldn’t?