Improvising and gigging

  • 10 March 2023

Filling in a spreadsheet at freshers’ fair prompted numerous approaches to Finlay Waugh (Music 2021).

After registering his interest in Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra, Fin was inundated with invitations to join musical acts and societies. The trumpeter leapt at the chance.

“I have a rehearsal or gig every other night,” says Fin, listing the bands, groups and orchestras he is involved with, which include CUJO, Soft Crunchy Landing and Temor, a four-piece jazz group.

“May Week last year was insanely busy. I did 36 gigs in all of May Week. I was getting up at 1pm and going to sleep at 4am every day, but it was so much fun.”

Fin is too modest to blow his own trumpet – for want of a better phrase – but he must be good. He considers the demand for his performances to be due to his skill improvising, as much as his talent for playing in general.

He started playing trumpet in his final year in primary school and began playing jazz in Year 8, encouraged by the musical director of the Youth Jazz Orchestra for children in Kingston, Surrey. He took a junior jazz course at the Royal Academy in sixth form and is reaping the rewards.

“There’s loads of trumpeters in Cambridge, but it’s less of a tradition for trumpeters to go down the jazz route and improvise,” he says.

“I’m really glad I learnt to improvise when I was young, because when you get older you are a bit more self-conscious. I’m thankful I had that naivety.”

Jazz appealed because Fin could move on from the classical music and grade-based learning.

“I grew to love jazz more because I didn’t have to just read what was on the page. I could do what I want and be a performer with more freedom than classical musicians,” he says.

Fin is CUJO co-musical director with Gabriel Margolis (Queens’) and this week will perform with Mark Kavuma, a renowned jazz trumpeter, in Torque of the Town, with Cambridge University Centre for Music Performance. It is an opportunity which enthuses Fin, who enjoys his role with CUJO.

He adds: “I’ve wanted to build from more of the standard repertoire in the jazz orchestra. We’re a really good jazz orchestra, but we’ve all got passion for new music, so I wanted to give a profile to new artists.”

Fin is a composer and his long-term ambition is to write film scores. He hopes to study for a masters in film composition at The National Film and Television School. The Royal College of Music is another possibility.

He has written for societies in collegiate Cambridge while also playing across the city.

“You learn so much from playing with other people. It makes me more knowledgeable as a musician,” he says.

:: For more information on Torque of the Town on Saturday 11 March at West Road Concert Hall, including tickets, visit:

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