MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - In his two-bedroom apartment in Plymouth, 27-year-old Matt Wheeler’s been steadily preparing for the most nerve-wracking 30 seconds of his life as a musician.
Come New Year’s Eve, he’ll play to 60,000 people in U.S. Bank Stadium.
"Really kind of a dream come true scenario for a local guitar player," Wheeler told FOX 9. "Or musician-artist in general!"
Beginning this season, the Minnesota Vikings have included a guitar solo as part of their pre-game "Showtime" extravaganza. The first two games featured a guitarist from Atlanta who was featured in Netflix’s Stranger Things.
The solo comes at a key moment and in a key place: right outside the players' tunnel immediately before the team runs onto the field.
A friend referred Wheeler to the Vikings, and he got the call to fill the spot for the final home game of 2023 against the Packers.
"My heart dropped to my stomach, to be honest with you! I got more nervous, I think, when I was initially told than I have been the whole time ramping up to the event at this point."
Matt, who grew up in Anoka, took up guitar at age 5 and quickly became obsessed, he says. Obtaining a college degree in guitar performance, he spent several years in local bands.
"Obsessed, yeah, yeah, absolutely! Guitar is basically my life!"
For the past couple of years, though, he’s focused entirely on being a full-time instructor, with about 40 students from across the world, teaching in one-hour online sessions from his apartment.
As for his pre-game gig, the only instruction he received is it needs to be 30 seconds. And he’s been steadily preparing because he says it’s far too big of a moment to improvise.
"I’ve definitely wrote a solo for this because it’s such a big deal, and it got my nerves going. I wanted to write something so I knew what I was going to do."
Prior to this, the biggest crowd he’s played for is maybe a couple of thousand at a music fest.
After New Year’s Eve, he’ll be able to boast he played at U.S. Bank Stadium and to 60,000 people.
By far the shortest…and by far the biggest… gig of his career.
"I’m really stoked to just be a part of this," he said. "And see a good game!"