ISU students perform at South by Southwest
You probably aren’t familiar with the name VisionMade yet, but if you’ve ever walked through the Bone Student Center, visited the basement of Hewett Hall, or attended a campus event with a live band, you’ve likely seen the student group perform in one way or another.
In less than one month, the group’s three musicians—Justin Pickett, Tobi Taiwo, and Antonio Crossley—went from being nearly strangers to performing as a live soul band at one of the biggest music festivals in the country.
Over spring break, the trio flew to Austin, Texas, to perform at South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual multimedia conference that showcases film, music, and technology. The event is also famously known as the place where artists go to make it big, being credited with the discovery of artists like John Mayer, Janelle Monae, and Amy Winehouse.
Pickett and Crossley had been playing with VisionMade for a while before recently adding Taiwo to the group. “We actually met by chance while looking for other musicians through the Black Student Union (BSU),” said Taiwo, a sophomore and the group’s guitarist. “It was crazy. We met, a few days later we were playing together at BSU’s Black Heritage Ball, and a week later we were on the way to Texas.”
The three were invited to the festival by another performer, a relative of Pickett’s. They were among thousands of performers and spectators alike who filled Austin’s venues to connect and collaborate in the name of music. VisionMade performed at Aquarium On Sixth, a popular bar and grill nestled in central Austin. The group’s infectious energy and live band experience separated them from their musical peers and opened the door for some pretty cool opportunities.
“It was a humbling experience overall,” said Pickett, the group’s keyboardist and a senior communications major. “VisionMade’s message is to spread positivity. Performing our music and sharing that message with so many people at once was amazing.”
Luckily enough, the group’s music carried that message straight to the ears of Doctor Fink, friend and longtime keyboardist of the late superstar Prince.
“He recorded our performance and offered us some opportunities that we aren’t able to speak on just yet,” said Pickett. “Our experience at SXSW taught us that some stars shine brighter in different places. Being able to represent ISU and the rest of our group in that way was cool.”
The rest of the group being the 20-plus other Redbirds who make up VisionMade. These students define themselves as much more than a band—they’re a collective of student-creatives united under the goal of spreading their talent and message across campus and beyond. The group boasts an eclectic skill set, with singers, dancers, writers, and even businesspeople.
“I think what we’re doing is really impactful and I hope others do too,” said Crossley, a sophomore and the band’s drummer.
The trio, and the rest of VisionMade, practice where and when they can, frequenting the piano in the Bone Student Center and the basement of Hewett Hall to create their sound.
Beyond the music, it’s the group’s positive outlook on life and thirst for achievement that resonates and has been the catalyst for their recent success. SXSW was just the beginning. “We want to come together to form something bigger than us. Imagine what we could do not only at ISU, but around the rest of the world,” said Crossley.
VisionMade plans on making the world their stage, but for now, they’re planning to keep their talent a little closer to home. These rising have two upcoming performances at Drifters Pub on April 27 and at Welcome Week’s Quadchella this fall.