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Meet Tommy Hensel - arts presenter, food writer, and sommelier.

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Meet Tommy Hensel.

Tommy Hensel, a distinguished full member of the Arts and Culture Network, currently holds the position of Senior Director of Performing Arts at Elgin Community College in Elgin, IL, a role he has been dedicated to since February 2022.

During our insightful interview, I curated Tommy's ideal cultural year based on his responses to 10 thought-provoking questions. This exploration promises a delightful blend of anecdotes and surprises.

Tommy Hensel - arts presenter, food writer, and sommelier.

Before assuming his current role in Elgin (pronounced with a soft "g"), Tommy served as the Managing Director of the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Moraine Valley Community College, showcasing his commitment from January 2008 to February 2022.

Tommy brings a rich reservoir of experience in arts presentation, spanning responsibilities such as hiring, budgeting, accounting, bookkeeping, marketing, grant writing, fundraising, programming, box office management, and staff supervision.

Engaging beyond institutional roles, Tommy actively participates in the broader arts community. He currently holds the position of President on the Board of Heartland Performing Arts, a non-profit organization and producer of the innovative Midwest Arts XPO.

Having completed a six-year term on the board of NAPAMA (North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents), Tommy significantly contributed to the organisation's mission of advancing the best interests of performing arts agents and managers. Further, he served as the co-chair of the 2018 Arts Midwest Conference and dedicated 11 years as the Chair of the Illinois Presenters Network, the consortium of arts presenters in the state of Illinois.

Before reentering the performing arts arena, Tommy took a hiatus from his theatre and music careers between 1996 and 2003. During this period, he co-owned Light Lines, a holistic health company, where he authored and co-authored several books, CDs, and audiotapes focusing on self-help and empowerment.

A resident of the Chicago area for 15 years, Tommy has diversified his interests, contributing as a writer for Your Chicago Guide (, with a primary focus on restaurant reviews. Additionally, he serves as an Independent Pampered Chef consultant and has earned a WSET Level 3 certification in Wines, currently advancing towards the Diploma level. Tommy shares his culinary explorations through his YouTube channel ( and on Instagram as @table41please.

In essence, Tommy Hensel defies categorisation, infusing every project he undertakes with unwavering passion and dedication, ensuring its resounding success.

You can find Tommy on LinkedIn here.


Meeting summary.

Quick meeting recap

Tommy, the senior director of performing arts at Elgin Community College, is offered a fantasy, hypothetical, year-long study trip to New Zealand, funded by a wealthy research institute.

Tommy also shared his interest in wine and theater, and his wish to meet William Shakespeare.


Performing Arts and Wine: Tommy's Passions:

Tommy, the senior director of performing arts at Elgin Community College, shared about his role and the college's robust schedule of performances and academic programs. He mentioned that the website,, has more information. Tommy also revealed that he is studying to be a sommelier in his free time. Mark and Tommy further bonded over their shared passion for fantasy fiction and wine.

Research Trip to New Zealand: Arts and Wine:

Mark proposed a year-long study trip to a country of Tommy's choice, funded by a research institute. Tommy chose New Zealand, specifically the South Island, due to its combination of great arts and great wine. Mark confirmed the arrangement, including accommodation and a group of new friends to welcome him. Tommy agreed to return and provide a brief report on his findings.

Tommy's Year-Long Musical Journey in Wellington

Mark and Tommy discussed a unique condition for Tommy's continued year-long stay. Tommy decided to listen to only one genre of music to study its impact on him. They chose musical theatre, reflecting his theatre roots. Mark expressed approval of Tommy's choice, sharing his own connection to the genre. The setting was confirmed as Wellington, New Zealand for Tommy's year-long musical theater journey.

New Zealand Arts and Culture Trip Planning:

Tommy and Mark discussed Tommy's upcoming trip to New Zealand where he will be hosted by a delegation from the arts and culture sector. They plan to ease Tommy into the culture by taking him to a dance performance, with a suggestion to see something indigenous to New Zealand, similar to the Haka performed at Rugby matches. Tommy also showed interest in modern dance companies in New Zealand.

Dinner Plans and Food Distribution:

Mark and Tommy discussed the plan for their dinner after the dance show. Tommy expressed his flexibility in choosing cuisine, but mentioned a preference for local produce. They also touched on the topic of global food distribution, commenting on the practice of importing food from one country to another. The conversation concluded with Tommy confirming that he would be having a leg of lamb with local produce at the restaurant after the show.

Sports and Art Discussion:

Tommy expressed his disinterest in sports while Mark mentioned that the next day was Sport Day in New Zealand. They briefly discussed the possibility of attending a football match. Tommy also shared his preference for impressionist art and mentioned an exhibition by Monet in Chicago. Mark responded by mentioning a fictional digital art gallery in Wellington that displays art in chronological order. Tommy showed interest in seeing an impressionist exhibit there. Monet.

Plans for Theatre and Cinema Visits:

Mark and Tommy discussed their plans for the upcoming activities. Mark proposed a visit to the magical theater that could stage any play or musical, and Tommy expressed interest in seeing the original casts of "Follies". Mark also suggested a movie day with his new friends at the big cinema, where Tommy expressed interest in watching "Indiana Jones" on the big screen, particularly "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Shakespearean Literature Lunch Desire:

Tommy revealed his wish to have lunch with William Shakespeare. He expressed an interest in discussing the ongoing controversy about who wrote Shakespeare's plays. Mark acknowledged Tommy's desire to meet Shakespeare, referring to it as a common fantasy.

Wellington Day Out: Winery Visit and Reflection:

Mark and Tommy reflected on the concept of having a day to themselves in Wellington, New Zealand. Tommy expressed his desire to spend the day outdoors, particularly at a winery, given the chance. Additionally.

Christmas Gift, LinkedIn Groups, and Future Plans:

Mark shared a book with Tommy as a Christmas gift and also provided a link to free events and LinkedIn groups. Tommy confirmed receiving the gift and Mark advised him to save the chat for future reference.

Mark also mentioned an upcoming Christmas party and encouraged Tommy to introduce himself to the LinkedIn groups, tagging Mark for introductions. Mark also mentioned he would arrange three high-level personal introductions for Tommy from the network's founder.


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