Barrington High School graduate Kenneth “Chip” Batko begins his role as the school’s director of vocal music July 1.
Batko, who went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in choral music education from Millikin University and a master’s degree in music education from VanderCook College of Music, succeeds choral director Nancie Tobison who began at the school in 1996 and retired this spring.
Barrington Suburban Life reporter Tarah Thorne asked Batko about his former work at Reed-Custer High School and his plans for the Barrington’s choir program.
Thorne: What led you to Barrington High School?
Batko: I found out through some family and friends that Nancie (Tobison) was retiring at the end of the 2014 school year. As a graduate of Barrington High School and a member of the choir program, I couldn’t help but ask myself “What if?”
The BHS choir program inspired me to become a music educator myself, so I thought it would be amazing to come home and share my passion for music and teaching with the students of BHS.
Thorne: What did you most enjoy during your seven years teaching at Reed-Custer High School? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Batko: I enjoyed seeing the students’ growth from year to year. At Reed-Custer High School, I taught many of the students from sixth grade through their senior years. It was very rewarding to see their musical growth firsthand for such a long span of time. Although my class next year will all be at the high school level, I am looking forward to becoming familiar and supportive of the the elementary and middle school Barrington 220 choir programs.
At Reed-Custer High School, I’m most proud of restructuring the annual madrigal dinner so as to enhance the experience for performers and audience members; instituting, creating and directing the annual Broadway Review, receiving a Division I Excellent Rating at the Illinois High School Association Organizational Contest each year our school attended; creating the middle school madrigal ensemble in 2011 which has served as a feeder program to the high school ensemble; and being voted teacher of the month in April 2012 and March 2013.
Thorne: How is BHS similar and different from Reed-Custer? What do you look forward to at BHS?
Batko: The schools are similar in that students have the ability to be involved in many different activities and classes. Both are very student-centered schools. However, BHS has eight periods and Reed-Custer has seven. BHS has over 3,000 students while Reed-Custer has 450.
I’m looking forward to working with the talented students in the community, in addition to collaborating with other fine arts staff to give the students the best experience possible.
Thorne: What music groups will you be in charge of? What big events will you plan?
Batko: I will oversee Select Ensemble, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir and Senior A Capella. I will plan the following: four curricular choir concerts; Barrington Idol (a fundraiser for the choir department); the Madrigal Banquet; the A Capella and Talent Show Concert; and vocal direction for the spring musical.
Thorne: What BHS music groups were you involved with as a student?
Batko: I was in Chamber Choir, Senior A Capella and Madrigals, in addition to the BHS band and theater program.
Thorne: Do you live in the area? What do you most enjoy about the Barrington community?
Batko: I currently live in Plainfield but plan to relocate to Barrington over the summer. I most enjoy the history of the Barrington community and its high school, in addition to the pride and support exhibited throughout the community.
Thorne: Describe a day in your shoes as a high school music director. What’s a good day?
Batko: A typical day for me involves planning and preparing for teaching students new repertoire, music reading and musicianship techniques. A good day consists of observing students discover and develop their passion for music and fine arts.
Thorne: What do you enjoy outside of work?
Batko: I like spending time with family and friends, attending theatrical shows in the area whenever possible.
Thorne: Any special plans for the summer break?
Batko: I will be going to Florida for a week in July. However, most of my time will be spent planning for the upcoming school year.
Thorne: Where did you nickname “Chip” come from?
Batko: My father and I share the same name. Because of this, I have been known as a “chip off the old block.”