Alumnus Dennis Tobenski ’04 and pianist Marc Peloquin will launch their debut album, And He’ll Be Mine: Love Songs by Gay American Composers, with a recital at Illinois State University. The performance is scheduled for Wednesday, February 17, at 7 p.m. in Kemp Recital Hall. The recital is free and open to the public and will feature works by Chester Biscardi, David Del Tredici (Pulitzer Prize 1980), Zachary Wadsworth, Darien Shulman, and Dennis Tobenski.
Tobenski received a bachelor’s degrees in vocal performance and music theory and composition at Illinois State and studied voice with baritone John M. Koch, and composition with Stephen Andrew Taylor, Serra Hwang, and David Feurzeig. As a student, he sang with the Illinois State Madrigal Singers, the Concert Choir, and the Acafellaz.
After graduating, he moved to New York City, and in 2009, he received his Master of Arts in music from the College of the City of New York, where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici.
Tobenski is an active tenor, and a composer of acoustic new music whose work has been described by Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times as “distinctive and engaging.” NewMusicBox has praised his music as being “sensitive, deeply personal, and unabashedly tonal.”
During the visit to Illinois State, Tobenski and Peloquin will present two master classes in voice and composition and meet with students in the theatre management and music business classes. In addition to the recital, Tobenski will give a lecture titled “Making a Career in the Arts,” which draws from his blog series The Composer’s Guide to Doing Business. Tobenski’s blog explores the practical and financial aspects of the concert music business from a composer’s point of view. The lecture is also free and open to the public and will take place Thursday, February 18, at 11 a.m. in 220 Centennial East.
Tobenski and Peloquin are long-time collaborators who have been performing together in New York City since 2006. The songs that make up the CD are ones that the two have been performing for eight years and that they consider the core of their repertoire.
When asked what inspired the selection, Tobenski said that the “particular grouping happened because of a concert that we gave in February 2014. We only had two or three weeks to prepare, so we turned to pieces that we already knew particularly well. We realized after we’d chosen the music that all of them were about love in some way, and that all of the composers (who are friends of mine) happened to be gay—it was a ready-made theme! Afterward, Chet Biscardi, the composer of Modern Love Songs, commented that the concert was so beautiful that we should record the program. The idea immediately appealed to me, and nine months later, Marc and I were in the studio for the first recording session!”
The album’s title is from Tobenski’s song cycle And He’ll Be Mine. Composed in 2005, each of the seven songs are dedicated to various friends, mostly gay men who Tobenski looks up to. “I got it in my head to compose a ‘gay’ song cycle with ‘straight’ texts—namely, poetry by Robert Burns.” Tobenski’s songs come at the end of the album, and tie together the central themes of the other songs, all of which center around love in its various aspects.
The album was released on February 15 by Perfect Enemy Records and contains 19 previously unrecorded songs by living American composers.