close
close

Beloved high school band director in suburban Chicago makes an impact

PALOS HEIGHTS, Illinois (CBS) – Saying goodbye to a job you never love, and this was the case of a beloved teacher who made the difficult decision to leave behind generations of students who said there was no one like him.

Chris Pitlik, or Mr. P, is the band director at Shepard High School in Palos Heights and one of Chicago’s hidden gems. But when CBS 2 visited recently, it was on a somber note as the band prepared for Mr. P’s final concert, just hours before he passed on the baton and retired.

Reporter: “If you had to choose one word to describe today, what would it be?”

Pitlik: “Bittersweet. Things I know I’ll miss about teaching and the job, other things I know I’m glad I won’t have to do.”

In addition to making music, Pitlik made history at Shepard as the longest serving band director for 33 years.

He is also an alum and played in the band as a student. After graduating from college and graduate school, he returned to Shepard to find that the 100-member band he left had dwindled to just 28.

Furthermore, Pitlik said that half of the band members played the flute and that he only had one drummer. From that humble beginning, Pitlik took Shepard’s music program up a notch.

Chris Pitlik, or Mr. P, is the band director at Shepard High School in Palos Heights. But when CBS 2 visited recently, it was on a somber note as the band prepared for Mr. P’s final concert, just hours before he passed on the baton and retired.

CBS


“We have a competitive band, concert band, wind symphony, jazz band. I teach a beggar training course,” he said. “I have an AP band class, jazz band, show choir, musical.”

Shepard Principal Jennifer Pollack said Pitlik “is the band director at Shepard High School.” Pollack is a big fan.

“He knows the impact a high school can have on students,” she said. “He would just go through a wall for him.”

Pitlik described the feeling of seeing his students grow throughout their time in the program.

“It’s amazing since they come in as freshmen, watching them, how shy they are, how shy they are, insecure, worried,” he said. “And by adulthood, they’re confident and ready to take on the world.”

So what did Mr. P’s students have to say?

“I would say the two words that come to mind are hardworking and determined,” Jackson Gillono said.

“He’s very caring. He’s such a nice person, besides his profession, he’s just a really nice person,” Ben said.

Then it was time to pack up and wait for a big ceremony to honor Mr. P. He said he was leaving the band in good hands.

In what seems to be a tradition, the new band director, Ken George, is also a Shepard alum. Mr. P was the director of his band.

Provided to CBS


In what seems to be a tradition, the new band director, Ken George, is also a Shepard alum. Mr. P was the director of his band.

“I was just doing the math last night,” George said. “I’ve known him for over half his career, my whole career.”

George admitted that filling Pitlik’s shoes is “a little intimidating.” He said he never imagined he would be the person to replace Mr P.

Reporter: “Is this a sad day or a happy day?”

George: “It’s a bit of both.”

“These kids have been a part of my life,” Pitlik said. “We’ve touched their lives through teaching and we’re kind of connected because of that. I’ve always tried to put the kids first and give them the best and most positive experience I can.”

So what’s next for Mr. P? Family time, travel, and said he might pick up his clarinet and head to a community orchestra.