For about 90 minutes a day, almost every day, for the past decade, Maria Pytlik of Brainard practices the trumpet.
Recently, it was announced the Aquinas Catholic High School junior has been accepted to play in the 2018 Nebraska All-State Band for the second year in a row. Out of the hundreds of students across the state who apply for the Nebraska Music Education Association sponsored group, only 160 are selected.
“It’s just a really good experience," Pytlik said. "It was just really fun to see all these other people who cared so much about band. At school, not everybody cares about band that’s in band, but there, everybody cares about band.”
Pytlik, 16, said she’s been playing the trumpet since she was 5. When she was about 6, her parents sought out a trumpet teacher for Pytlik. That's what led them to Brad Obbink, of Lincoln. Obbink has been playing the trumpet for nearly 50 years and has performed with the Nebraska Brass Quintet, Nebraska Jazz Orchestra and the Lincoln Municipal Band.
When Obbink first met Pytlik, he said he didn’t want to teach her. Obbink said people are discouraged from playing the trumpet at a young age as the instrument is physically demanding and kids generally don't have the strength to play it. He also said kids who start early tend to get so advanced that when it comes time to play in school bands, they get bored and drop out as they find it too easy.
“I didn’t want to teach her, but her parents were very insistent,” Obbink said. “They had been turned down by a couple of other teachers and I think I was short on money at the time. So I said ‘all right, I’ll listen to her once, bring her to town.'”
Obbink recalled his first meeting with Pytlik vividly.
“She was small for her age at the time. I remember thinking she wasn’t even two trumpets tall when she first came to me. I rather, grumbly said, ‘OK kid, show me what you got.’ And she picked up her trumpet and played the prettiest, most perfectly in tune version of 'Silent Night' I have ever heard in my entire life. And two hours later, we were still playing the trumpet, and that’s what we’ve done ever Saturday morning since,” Obbink said.
Even though she was young, Obbink said he allowed Pytlik to play more advanced work.
“I never thought of her as a little kid. She always played the same routines as I do as a professional trumpet player. She never wanted to play little kid music," he said. "She always wanted to play grown-up music and worked hard at it. And I’ve allowed her to do that. Ordinarily, with other students, I wouldn’t have, I would have insisted they play little kid music, and I kind of let her steer her own course, being a unique student.”
Aquinas Band Instructor Helen Ostdiek said Pytlik is an asset to the school program.
“Maria is a hard worker, she works very hard on playing the trumpet very well. She has an uncanny sense of musicality,” Ostdiek said.
Over the years, Obbink said his student has grown into a fine trumpet player.
“I wasn't at all surprised that she got into the All-State Band because she’s always been a fine musician. She’s also a competitive individual, which is necessary to be successful,” Obbink said.
The All-State Band will rehearse Nov. 14 to Nov. 16 on the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus. A final public concert will be held on Friday, Nov. 16, at the Lied Center for the Performing Arts at 301 N. 12th St., Lincoln.
Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.