The Union gains attention, experience during spring break trip to SXSW festival

Apr 20, 2015

North Central College students broadened their skills in event planning, working with professional musicians, music photography and photojournalism during a spring break trip to the South By South West (SXSW) Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

The annual weeklong festival brings in thousands of bands, filmmakers and technicians who present their work in music showcases, screenings and presentations.  

Many of the students who made the trip are involved in The Union—a student-run, off-campus music venue that’s become one of the premier underground music and arts venues in the Chicago suburbs. The Union promotes the idea that great art can inspire both personal and social change.

Students gained hands-on experience at the festival on how to book and host professional musicians and larger events. They also teamed up to sponsor a showcase with AudioTree, a Chicago-based, artist-centric music company that provides artist management and concert promotion. This student trip was one of several North Central service trips sponsored by BreakAway.

“What this trip did for all of us was to demonstrate the significance of what we do and why we’re doing it,” said Kevin Prchal ’16, co-president of The Union and organizational communication major. “We drove 18 hours each way and worked all day and into early morning hours on the days of our showcase so we could provide a unique, positive experience for people.”

Students worked the entrance to their showcase venue, managed the guest list, handed out information about The Union as they worked the sponsorship booth, and helped bands load in and out of the venue. Prchal and his team also met and talked with numerous performers about The Union, scheduled future events, learned about the bands’ genre of music and how they traveled.

“After helping with booking at The Union over the past year, it was nice to talk to artists, not agents, about what we do without a third party between us,” Prchal said.

Xanic Lopez ’16, majoring in interactive media studies/convergent media and Spanish, joined The Union trip to gain personal and professional experience in music photography and photojournalism.

“I’ve been involved in the music scene for quite some time now and knew I had to go,” said Lopez. “There probably wouldn't be another opportunity like this for a while.”

Because the festival attracted small, independent bands, Lopez found it was easier to approach its members for interviews and photographs. She took photos of all the band performances except one. “All I had was my camera, and I depended entirely on what the artist did and how the lighting was,” she said. “The photographer has to be ready for whatever stunt the musician might do and to catch those captivating moments.” As she uploaded photos to social media, she’d tag the bands and many would share and credit her work, exposing her photography to a wider audience.

Prchal and Lopez said they’re even more excited about their professional futures after this spring break experience.

“It doesn’t matter what we’re studying or what we end up doing after we graduate,” said Prchal. “The spirit of doing such a thing is contagious and can translate into any line of work.”

Others who went on this trip included Whitney Roberts ’08, staff chaperone and assistant director for civic engagement, and Jamie Mangiameli ’15, Samantha Neahring ’16, Tucker Good ’16, Mirachelle Anselmo ’16, Alicia Cassachia ’17 and Kassie Sandoval ’15.

By Jordan Bolker ’16