Bob Babko was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania (the same small, now boarded-up town where Vinnie Colaiuta was born) and began musical involvement with piano lessons at age 5. At one time or other, Bob has played junior high school drums, string bass (in the “dance band”), tuba, electric bass, guitar, clarinet (in college marching band) and ultimately/more lately trombone. He has also sung bass and tenor in high school, junior college, and university select ensembles. He has taught 17 years of choral music and 17 years of instrumental music.
His degrees are in Music Theory and History (BA – UCSB) and Music Composition (MA- CSUN). He has also written jingles, televised commercial music, and many arrangements some of which were published by Warner Brothers. With all of that, the applicable constants for Bob have been a commitment to teaching and a passion for jazz. As a choral music teacher, Bob directed a select ensemble of singers “accompanied” by an 11 piece jazz band that scored superior ratings at the Reno Jazz Festival and a 1st place at one of the early Chaffey College Jazz Festivals. During that time, he also founded the first high school “pop choral” festival in California. Later, he also taught jazz singing at the JC level. Having found his real niche in instrumental teaching, his jazz bands have been consistently recognized as some of the very best, taking 1st place in festival in the heavy division, being invited to perform at CMEA Conference and at the Monterey Jazz Festival “Next Generation” festival, and placing very high at the Reno Jazz Festival.
As an instrumental jazz educator, Bob founded the “Super Jazz” festival which for 13 years has brought top professionals as judges and clinicians into contact with high school and college jazz bands. Beyond his teaching, he has been influential in bringing jazz to those outside of his own classrooms by being Jazz Representative to CMEA, president of the California Unit of IAJE, and founding board member of CAJ. Bob was very honored to have been selected as the Walrus/CMEA Jazz Educator of the Year for 2006.
Bob is most proud of having nurtured jazz interest and skills in so many students over the years, of his son Jeff, who is a highly sought-after professional pianist/keyboardist, and of having managed to stay married to his wonderful wife, Diane, through 45 years of marriage. And, he is extremely honored to be inducted into the CAJ Hall of Fame, especially as it is in the same year as Jeff Tower and Rich Watson, two jazz educators who have been of tremendous influence and inspiration to him for so many years.