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Meet Joe Bartko, the voice of Niwot football

 

October 9, 2019 | View PDF

Photo by Jennifer Clary

Niwot graduate Joe Bartko handles public address duties for the Colorado State marching band, as well as Niwot football.

Public speaking comes naturally to Cougar’ football announcer Joe Bartko, who seemed destined for a life behind the microphone even from a young age. Now he is using those talents to give back to the communities that meant so much to him as a student at Niwot High School.

“I have a hobby that I get paid for,” the former Cougar percussionist said before a recent home game at Everly Montgomery field. Bartko is also the public address announcer for the Colorado State University marching band. “I do this because I love these activities. I love high school and college athletics, I love marching band...it’s rewarding for me to know that the job that I’m doing can make their time a little more fulfilling and a little bit more enjoyable.”

Bartko’s first foray into announcing came at age four, when he introduced a program at his preschool, and even then his affinity for it was evident, according to family lore.

“Basically, I just got up and said ‘Welcome to our program, ladies and gentleman,’ but my mom knew right then that I would end up doing something in radio, TV or other announcing,” he said.

She didn’t have to wait long for her prediction to come true. While still a student at Niwot, Bartko landed his first professional announcing gig with a Denver-based color guard circuit.

“I have a big-mouth, and I guess that’s why I got the job,” he recalled. “And it just grew from there. The more people heard me, the more they liked the work that I did.”

It was around the same time that Bartko developed his fondness for musical performances, first as a clarinetist and later as a percussionist for the Cougar marching band. He then went on to a four-year stint with Denver-based drum and bugle corps the Blue Knights, which in turn opened more doors in the announcing world.

In the years since, Bartko, has served as an announcer for a wide variety of events, both in Colorado and across the country, including concerts, 4H shows, and corporate gatherings. He also has a recurring role as announcer for Winter Guard International’s Indoor Percussion Championships, held annually in Dayton, Ohio.

It was 2011 when the CSU band director reached out to Bartko about the opportunity to announce for the marching band during Rams football games—an opportunity Bartko at first thought was too good to be true.

“I got an email message from Dr. Nicholas at Colorado State asking me if I would be interested in being their announcer. Well, I thought it was some kind of joke because I get things like that all the time, so I almost didn’t reply. But I decided to play along, and I’m glad I did, because it ended up being a fit. I’m in my ninth year now, and I do all of the halftime, pregame, and national anthem announcements.”

He has similar duties as the voice of Cougars football, a side gig he picked up in 2017 when his youngest son Ayden joined the team. He also served as the PA announcer for St. Vrain Valley’s district band night, a showcase of the area’s high school marching bands.

Though Bartko calls announcing a “hobby,” it’s not something he takes lightly. He often spends hours preparing before a game or performance, using the many tips and tricks he’s picked up over the years, such as counting syllables rather than words for proper pacing and enunciation. He also said he takes pride in pronouncing correctly not just student names, but also the names of coaches, sponsors, and other program members.

“For seniors, this is their last year, and when they hear their name, they want it right. And for our business partners, these people or companies spend a lot of money, and we want to make sure they’re recognized appropriately.”

He said he also tries to avoid the pitfalls that sometimes trip up his colleagues.

Jocelyn Rowley

Since 2017, Niwot graduate Joe Bartko has been announcing Niwot football games from his perch in the press box at Everly-Montgomery field.

“There are a lot of announcers that like to hear themselves talk, and they will use more words than are necessary, or they want to be a cheerleader, or they scream and yell into the mike. I’m not that way. We have two teams here—the home team and the visiting team—so I try to interact with both equitably and try to be even as much as I can.”

That said, Bartko acknowledged that the home team might get a bit of a boost from time to time, especially now that Ayden is Niwot’s starting quarterback. However, he thinks Cougar fans will forgive a little fatherly pride, especially if the team keeps winning.

“It’s so exciting, but it’s sometimes scary, too, like when he gets hurt or is injured and I have to announce that. And then sometimes I get a little animated if there’s a penalty on him. But lately he’s been doing really well, and it’s really nice to have the ability to sit up there and watch football and announce my son’s name.”

 

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