Longmont, Colorado’s Joe Bartko got an early start to his announcing career, first getting behind the microphone when he was barely more than a toddler. “My first event I ever announced I was 4 years old. I announced a preschool pageant where I grew up in Simi Valley, California” he recalled. After marching with Denver, Colorado’s Blue Knights Drum and Bugle Corps, his distinctive voice was heard at many pageantry events over the ensuing years.
In recalling the trajectory of his announcing career in the marching arts, he remembered “I started announcing for the Continental Divide Color Guard circuit. I then started doing marching bands, then WGI, then DCI. It has grown more and more. Now as a sideline profession I do radio and television voiceover work including a two-hour marching band special that aired on the Altitude Sports Network, I am the Pre-game and Half-time “voice” for the Colorado State University Marching Bnad in Ft. Collins, and also do public address announcing as well.”
Bartko’s WGI Championships debut came in 1989, which was the first of four seasons spent announcing the Color Guard Finals. He took a year off, and has been the voice of the WGI Percussion Championships ever since. Next year will be his 25th year as a WGI Championships announcer.
All of the WGI’s announcing crew consider it an honor to be selected to announce at this prestigious event, and all get a huge thrill out of making the experience something the participants will remember. Bartko is no exception, mentioning the aspect of announcing at World Championships he enjoys most is “helping to get the kids excited about their performance. I’m not here for myself, I’m here for WGI. That’s what I’ve enjoyed is being here for the kids and to support the activity and to energize the crowd.”
With many years of experience using his voice in numerous acoustical environments, he shared a few tricks of the trade. “Always know your audience. Know your venue. A (high school) football stadium is different than a pro sports stadium. Prepare yourself appropriately. Know the sound/pa system. Know what type of voice inflection you’re going to have. The way their name is announced is important to kids and staff. I try to review the scripts ahead of time. No matter where I’m announcing I always try to review material beforehand.”
One other important thing he learned the hard way was which type of liquid refreshment to drink to keep his voice fresh. He laughed when recalling “in my second year announcing for WGI percussion, I had just got done with lunch and had a can of pop. A group was exiting the floor, and bubbles from the pop kicked in and I let out a burp that went out over microphone and reverberated for what seemed like 5 minutes. I’ve always drank water since then.”
Bartko has a very important job which helps keep us safe from those who wish to do us harm, explaining “I am the associate director of the International Port Liaison Office for National Maritime Law Enforcement Academy. We are a counterpiracy/counterterrorism training academy.” When not at his “day job” and not announcing, he works as a first responder with a search and rescue group, something he has done for 30 years. He also stated “I like to hike and spend time with my family. I like to spend time with my two young boys. I have a 13 year old and a 10 year old that keep me pretty occupied.”