BARRINGTON – In the midst of preparing for her retirement from Barrington High School, Nancie Tobison was named a quarterfinalist for a Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and Grammy Foundation.
A total of 222 music teachers have been selected as quarterfinalists and as the school year was winding down, Tobison was working hard to complete her essays and videos in the hopes of becoming a semifinalist. The winner will receive $10,000 for their school and the remaining nine finalists will be awarded $1,000 each for their school.
Tobison was nominated by a group of former students currently in New York City, as well as Christine and Scott Badskey of North Barrington. She was notified of being a quarterfinalist the night before she was scheduled to have a complete knee replacement. Tobison knew she would have to focus on getting her rehab complete and get back to school to make the necessary videos.
“At this point, I just want to represent the school and the program to the best of my ability,” Tobison said.
Tobison joined Barrington High School in 1995 as a choral director. She started filling a vacancy due to maternity leave and never left. Tobison and her various choirs have performed all over the world, including Europe, China, the White House and Australia.
“Since 1996, Nancie Kozel Tobison has become a legend by building a revered choral program at Barrington High School,” Superintendent Tom Leonard recently said in honor of Tobison’s appearance with her choir at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April. “The Barrington Madrigals and Chamber Choir were founded under Nancie’s leadership and she has been the driving force behind an impressive record of award-winning performances.”
Although she originally planned to be a professional pianist, Tobison found the lifestyle of a pianist a very lonely one.
“I was born to teach,” she said. “I was always, as a child even, teaching people.”
Tobison started teaching right out of college, spent some years as an accompanist and then returned to teaching with the Barrington High School position.
“The journey,” Tobison said of the best part of teaching. “Every year, starting with a new group of kids and seeing where they are at the beginning of the year and where they are at the end.”
In honor of Tobison’s career and contributions to Barrington High School, a group of parents and alum established the Nancie Tobison Scholarship, to be awarded every year for 18 years beginning next school year. The group decided on 18 years to represent one year for every year Tobison spent at the school.
“Probably the greatest thing I’ve learned is that technology is redefining education and music is even more important than it used to be because it is one of the few places during the day where you can get in touch with your emotions,” Tobison said.
Following her retirement (Tobison’s last day with Barrington High School was June 5) , Tobison will work for Choirs of America, establishing the Midwest Showcase, where she will pick the choirs invited to perform in the showcase.
Barrington High School alumnus Kenneth Batko will serve as Barrington High School’s new choir director. He was taught by Tobison. She said he decided in high school he wanted to be a choral director.
“My advice to him is to focus on the beauty of the music,” Tobison said.