by DEBRA MONTANDON
Brent and Emily Wheeler still make time out of their busy lives to play guitar together after 20 years.
They are married, but they make time to play music together and with others in the industry. Brent is the director of guitar studies at South Plains College, while Emily is a part-time instructor.
They recently released their third CD titled, “Maybe I am.” Emily and Brent both play guitars on the CD, and they are joined by Kristin Bassett as the vocalist, Joy Harris on Bass and Alan Shinn on drums. Emily has already started writing more songs to create another CD.
Their CD can be purchased on Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby, or from Brent or Emily Wheeler on campus.
Brent is from Las Vegas, Nevada, while Emily grew up in northern Utah, outside of Salt Lake City.
When Emily was in graduate school in Ohio, there was a day she received an email asking her to apply to work at South Plains College.
“It looks impressive on my resume that someone asked me to come here and try out,” she said.
She was going to fly down and interview but not take it. She and her husband had no desire to move to Levelland. When she saw the college, it was a “game changer,” she recalled, adding, “very few schools have the funding for the arts program like they do here. When you walk in and see the facility, it is a no brainer. Most schools don’t have what this school has in terms of the equipment and the administrative support. It was exciting when I saw the recording equipment and what all the rooms are equipped with, the excitement of the kids and their passion for it.”
She went to her room and called Brent, telling him, “I think we are moving here.” Brent’s response was “What???” Most people haven’t heard of Lubbock, Texas, much less Levelland. Brent added that the professors of South Plains College really found Emily when she was 18. Someone had seen her teach kids.
Brent Wheeler said he knew of SPC through some contacts and Leanne Womack, a former SPC student and country music star.
“People here are very kind, warm and real, which is very nice,” Emily Wheeler said. “It isn’t like anywhere else we have lived. It has a nice charm to it.”
Brent teaches private lessons, jazz, country, blue grass, western swing, vocal jazz ensemble and topics for the professional musician such as concert promotion and venue management.
Brent Wheeler also created a youth program for kids between the ages of 10 and17. It is called SPC Youth Live. It leads up to the “Explore the Arts” summer camps, where they teach music and how to play in a band. “It takes place after school throughout the week,” said Brent Wheeler. “The kids get to come and play on professional instruments. They also get to perform in the Tom T Hall performance hall. It is super fun for the kids.”
Emily Wheeler said moving to Levelland and working at SPC has lasted 16 years.
“We really like it,” she said. “It is very unusual to have the faculty that is here and the support of the administration. To have the funding for the arts in higher education is rare.”
Emily Wheeler started playing the guitar at the age of 4. Her father is a musician and professor. Her home was full of enriched music, but her interest was never forced. Brent and Emily met because of her father.
Brent Wheeler started playing the guitar at the age of 10. His dad was a professional musician also.
They have four children, ages 13, 10, 7 and 5. The two oldest are already playing the guitar and participate in the SPC Youth Live program. The eldest also plays bass guitar for a band at SPC.
Emily Wheeler also teaches at Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University. Her classes include Jazz and guitar, performance, and Jazz ensembles.
Emily Wheeler said there were several female guitarists who influenced her, but her father played a large role in her love for music and guitar.
Brent Wheeler says that he was influenced by several people, including his father, who was a “top 40 musician.” He also once played in “Purple Reign,” a tribute to Prince. He was one of the founding members of the tribute band, playing with them for three years.
The Wheelers can often be found playing in Lubbock at the Funky Door or the La Diosa Cellars and Bistro in Lubbock. They also play private venues as well.
Brent has also signed a contract with the Lubbock Symphony.
There are so many ways for musicians to make a decent living today that didn’t used to be available, according to Brent Wheeler.
“There has never been a time before when you could make money independently and not rely on a record label,” he explained. “It also puts a lot more on self-motivation. At the same time, you have to have self- discipline to be sure they are shaking hands, reaching out with emails, or whatever the media that works for them.”
“It is a fun industry, but we go non-stop,” he added. “They are busy from 5 a.m. until midnight constantly, and that is like a freight train moving down the track.”