Alumni Spotlight

Alumni Spotlight on Bob Peskin '78

What inspired you to pursue a career in music?

I always knew I’d be working in music, though it took me a long time to make the transition from avocation to vocation. My mother was a classical pianist, and I grew up in a home that was filled with music; I audited music classes at Princeton while still a high school student in town, and gained advance standing in the music department when I matriculated as a freshman. After college, I earned a living doing other things (radio broadcasting, college administration) for almost 15 years before enrolling in a master’s program in choral conducting, and I’ve never looked back.

Who are the greatest influences on you as a musician?

My teachers, including those at Princeton and before, especially Bill Trego and Nancianne Parella, who were the conductor and accompanist, respectively, of both my high school choir and the Freshman Singers.
Dale Warland continues to inspire me, with his attention to detail and his relentless pursuit of artistic excellence. Similarly, Robert Shaw, whose recordings I grew up with, was a tremendous inspiration, especially his humility and his dedication to the composer and the music: making clear that our job as singers is to bring the music to life for the audience.

Could you describe your most memorable concert experience?

Before college: with my high school choir, singing the Duruflé Requiem with M. Duruflé conducting, and Mme. Duruflé at the organ. (Imagine my delight more than 20 years later and a thousand miles to the west, singing the same work with Robert Shaw, who explained to the performers that he was using tempi that were based on “a recording of an extraordinary American high school choir in a concert led by the composer”—the recording from my high school choir performance!)
In college: so many of the performances with the Nassoons—singing on tours for people who had never heard men’s voices in close harmony, and seeing the delight and revelation in their faces; at Reunions, especially for the older classes, who cherished their time together and who had experienced the bonds of fellowship that they could see mirrored in our (very) young faces.
Since college: singing the Rachmaninoff Vespers (“All-Night Vigil”) with the Dale Warland Singers, the night that the Columbia space shuttle disintegrated on re-entry. The concert was dedicated to the memory of the astronauts who had died that day. It’s a profoundly emotional work in any context, but singing it that night was deeply moving.

What is your favorite music to play? And to listen to?

My tastes are very broad—as much as I’m immersed in classical music, I love jazz, rock, and folk music. I also sing in a doo-wop quartet, which keeps me connected to the popular music of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m in the Minnesota Beethoven Festival Chorale, a pick-up group of professional singers led by Dale Warland. We spend a week in rehearsal, and present a pair of concerts at the end of the week. This year, the centerpiece of the concert is Dominick Argento’s “Walden Pond.” I sang the premiere as a member of the Dale Warland Singers 20 years ago, and it’s one of those works that you get more out of each time you sing it.

Where would you like to be in 10 years' time?

Still singing, I hope!

What do you enjoy doing most?

Other than singing? Spending time with family & friends, reading/learning, travel.

What did your time in the Glee Club teach you? Could you give us a favorite memory?

I opted to join the Freshman Singers instead of the Glee Club, so that I could continue singing with my mentor, Bill Trego. At the same time, Glee Club conductor Walter Nollner invited me to sing on the GC’s intersession tour to Jamaica. Singing for two conductors at the same time was a valuable experience, and proved to be both instructive and a foreshadowing of my career as a professional choral singer.
Favorite GC memory: intersession tour to Jamaica in January, 1975. We sang at a reception for the country’s prime minister and the top government officials.
Favorite Freshman Singers memory: spring tour to Colonial Williamsburg, and singing by candlelight in Bruton Parish Church.