The University of Alabama allows students to take up their passions while being supported by the Tuscaloosa community, and one of their many passions is music. As a result, there is an entire community of local bands within the UA sphere that aim to share their creativity and music with those that will listen.
Many local bands, such as The Wheelers, Direwolf and Yellowjammer, are music groups formed by the students of UA hoping to make a name for themselves. These bands have transitioned from ideas to booking and performing at venues in the local community.
Justin Ritondo, a junior and an audio engineering major, is the guitarist for The Wheelers, a local jam band formed in January of 2021.
Bass player for The Wheelers, Matt McDavid, plays bass guitar at Bear Trap.
“I’m in my room all the time playing guitar, and it used to just be just having fun, playing backing tracks. But now, it’s like working out different melody ideas, solo ideas or different places we could take some of the songs because we like jamming out. And now, we’re putting out songs,” said Ritondo.
Ritondo pours an enormous amount of determination not only into The Wheelers but also into his guitar efforts.
Bassist for The Wheelers Matt McDavid is a senior and an operations management major. Like Ritondo, McDavid is highly committed to the success and growth of The Wheelers.
“The Wheelers play a huge role in my life. If half of my life is school and my day job, then The Wheelers is my other half. I went from knowing nothing about playing bass to being somewhat decent in under a year, something I never thought I could do. I could not have done it without the motivation of my bandmates and the satisfaction this band gives me,” said McDavid.
Support comes from not only family and close friends but also the local community. Because of other UA students and the Tuscaloosa community as a whole, the success of The Wheelers and other bands is possible.
McDavid said, “None of this would have been possible without the support of family and friends, whether it was putting up with us practicing and working out the kinks or showing up to cheer us on at our gigs, and every bar, fraternity and sorority that chose us to play for them in a town with countless options for entertainment.”
The Wheelers represent the other (student) bands of Tuscaloosa in that it is all about the music and joy that these artists offer to their fans, and in this case, the fans being other UA students.
Jay Hill, also known as Juicy J by his bandmates, is messin’ around with his trumpet.