‘A quilt of art’: How UA student musicians fit in the local soundscape

Sarah Clifton | @sarahgclifton, Contributing Writer

Over the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students’ lives, but the pandemic has done little to quell the creativity of UA students. For many student musicians, the pandemic was an opportunity to hone new skills. 

Carter Miller, the guitarist of the local band Dire Wolf and a senior majoring in English, said the pandemic forced him to do things he wouldn’t have otherwise. 

“The ideas I had were not brand new,” Miller said. “But the pandemic created a lot of free time and allowed me to work on and experiment with them in a way that wasn’t possible before.”

Liam Ravita, a sophomore majoring in music and audio engineering, used quarantine to focus on his guitar skills. 

“When the pandemic initially hit, everyone couldn’t believe what was happening, but then I realized, I’ve got all this time. I should really commit to getting better at music,” Ravita said. “It’s kind of funny, I actually called it my ‘quarantine shred quest.’” 

Liv Lake, a sophomore majoring in criminology, said she had “nothing better to do” when the pandemic hit during her senior year of high school, so she picked up a guitar. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lake said she felt compelled to learn guitar and write her own music, mainly because she realized she “didn’t do anything beyond softball.” Her main concern was practicality.

“It sucks, because I would love to make it more of a ‘real’ thing career-wise, but I know the music industry is not kind, and I just don’t have the time to dedicate to that right now,” Lake said. 

For some musicians, the beauty comes through melding influences to create a unique product, both communitywide and within their own artistic circles. 

“The influences on our music come from all five sides [of the band], and it molds together into a unique sound,” said Will Jefferson, the bassist for the band AmberWave and a junior majoring in computer science. “I think there’s a big palette of artists, sounds and writers at The University of Alabama, and together, we all make this quilt of art. My band adds a little salty-sweet square somewhere center-left of the quilt, and I think that’s beautiful.”

Despite the opportunities to develop their skills, some musicians prefer to keep their music a hobby, or at least have a “backup plan.” 

“Ideally, in a perfect world, I would make it a career,” said Joshua Harrelson, a multi-instrumentalist and senior majoring in finance. “I love music, but I’m almost worried that, if I pursue a music-related major, I would be stuck being a band teacher for my entire life, and I worry that would give music a negative connotation for me.” 

Whether a hobby or their full time-career, the art that musicians create can still be cathartic for them. 

“I think of music as an escape,” said Nick Pucci, a pianist and sophomore majoring in computer engineering. “Which is sort of cliché to say, but it’s true. It’s easy to remove yourself from everything going on and invest yourself into whatever you’re playing and get joy from it.” 

Harrelson said his piano is the first place he goes whenever he feels an intense emotion because “where words can fail me, the music speaks for me.”

For Ravita, music provides a way to mark his journey through life. 

“I can go on my phone and look back through everything I’ve recorded, and it acts as my journal entry for that period of my life,” he said.  

During the height of the pandemic, many musicians realized they wanted to spend time doing something they loved: writing and playing music. As The University of Alabama returns to pre-pandemic operations local bars and venues ease COVID restrictions, musicians are able to get back on stage. 

Miller said setting up for shows is a hassle, but the payoff of playing for friends and an appreciative audience, “even if just for a moment,” is worth it.