Skip to content
Campus Life

The (drum) beat goes on for this musician engineer

Combining her life-long love for music with her interest in technology led Sanaa Finley ’23 to feel “right at home” at Rochester. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

A funny thing happened when Sanaa Finley ’23 took part in the University of Rochester’s Early Connection Opportunity program this summer. She switched majors before even starting college.

“I came here looking to major in mechanical engineering,” the Ocean, New Jersey, native says. “We listened to lectures from professors in the different engineering disciplines, and when a professor from audio and music engineering came in, I realized I didn’t have to give up music in college. AME combined two things I’m very passionate about, and I couldn’t wait to call my mom and tell her.”

Music and technology have interested Finley for most of her life.

“I got a drum set when I was 5,” she says. “I was born on Christmas, and my mom gave it to me as a combination gift. It stunk for my neighbors, but I loved it and still do.”

students form the numbers 23

Meet the Class of 2023

They come from 44 states and 65 countries. Twenty percent are the first in their family to attend college. Welcome to Rochester, Class of 2023.

Although she can read sheet music, Finley says she “learned everything I know by listening to songs and replicating them by ear, and by being part of a marching band in high school.”

She also developed a strong interest in technology.

“I think it’s very interesting that I can pull up my phone and look up basically anything in the world and have that knowledge at the tips of my fingers,” says Finley. “I just want to know how everything works.”

Finley is an only child and lives with her mother on the Jersey Shore. She discovered the University of Rochester while searching for colleges with strong engineering programs.

“I wanted a place that was far enough from home, but not too far if I wanted to go back home (for a visit),” she says. “When I saw that Rochester allowed students to follow their passions due to their open curriculum and cluster system, I knew it was a perfect fit for me because I could major in engineering while having a cluster in music.”

Finley is the first in her family to attend college and comes to the University as a KRFrench Family Scholar. The college search process was new to her and her mother. “She did everything to help me, but she said, ‘Go with your gut, go with where your heart wants to be, and I’ll support you throughout everything.’”

Finley wasn’t able to take her drum set to campus but did bring a practice pad and drumsticks “so I wouldn’t bother my roommates too much.” She plans to join the University pep band and enroll in classes focused on music theory and also African drumming. “I have to get my fix,” she says with a laugh.

Drums are her passion, but she also has taught herself to play the ukulele and bass guitar. “Learning is something I really like to do,” she says.

Finley hopes eventually to earn a master’s degree and work at a job that combines electronics and music. “Maybe working on circuit boards and sound systems, or speakers for cars and classrooms,” she says.

Finley says she “felt right at home” when she first stepped onto the River Campus on the day last spring when she officially enrolled. Now, she’s ready to make her mark.

“I’m ready to start this new chapter in my life and see where my choices lead me,” she says. “I can’t wait to get going.”



Return to the top of the page