Students Enjoy Action-Packed South by Southwest

Led by dedicated faculty, Columbia students journeyed to Austin for immersive experiences, collaborative projects, and valuable networking opportunities, reinforcing the institution's commitment to practical education and student success.

In March, 88 Columbia College Chicago students descended upon Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, marking another chapter in their longstanding engagement with one of the world's premier showcases of tech, film, music, education, and culture. Led by faculty members deeply invested in their educational journey, students embarked on a trip to the conference filled with immersive experiences, collaborative projects, and invaluable networking opportunities. 

Since 2010, Columbia College Chicago has participated in SXSW, with Business and Entrepreneurship department chair Jerry Brindisi spearheading the trip. This year, Brindisi collaborated with a team of dedicated faculty members including Clayton Smith, Monique Maye, Loren Wells, Jason Stephens,and Alexander Fruchter, to ensure students had a multifaceted experience that blended classroom objectives with real-world application. 

In addition to being a fun excursion to one of the country’s top cities for the arts, the trip was a carefully curated educational experience. Each of the five classes attending SXSW (AEMMP Record Label Practicum, Music Publishing and Licensing Practicum, Artist Management Practicum, Creative Agency Practicum, and Executive Producing for Film and TV) was tasked with a mission, ranging from marketing presentations to music showcases. One standout project involved students Matt Akin, Viviana Luna, and Chloe Kinkaid, who had the opportunity to present their marketing strategies to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS). Their innovative approach garnered praise and valuable feedback from the client, highlighting the practical skills students gained through this hands-on experience. 

The Student Showcase, which gives students a chance to exhibit their work and talent, featured headliner Neptune’s Core, an all-female rock band from Jones College Prep High School. The band is signed to Columbia’s AEMMP record label and represented by outer/most, an agency owned by Kelly Deasy (Music Business ‘14,) and the partnership came together at a previous SXSW conference.  

Reflecting on his SXSW experience, Marketing student Matt Akin expressed gratitude for the chance to engage with industry professionals and attend thought-provoking panels on topics such as Conscious AI and digital transformation. “What truly stood out was the sheer diversity of approaches employed by these brands,” Akin says. “Whether it was through stunning visual displays, interactive installations, or cutting-edge technology, every element was designed to engage the senses and ignite the imagination.”  

Similarly, Viviana Luna, a Marketing and Graphic Design major, emphasized the collaborative nature of the trip and the invaluable lessons learned from working with real-world clients. She says, “Being immersed in an environment buzzing with innovation and passion was truly rewarding, especially as a graduating senior who is eager to join the world of producing events and brand activations. 

The trip also provided a platform for students in the music business program to showcase their talents. Hunter Maisel, a Music Business student, described her is first-ever SXSW experience as inspiring, particularly noting the opportunity to produce AEMMP Records' "Sounds of Spring" showcase. Maisel's initiative in securing performers and organizing the event demonstrated the practical skills and industry insight gained through the trip. 

Faculty members like Clayton Smith also played a pivotal role in ensuring students had a well-rounded experience. Smith highlighted the educational value of SXSW, emphasizing the opportunity for students to engage with industry leaders and participate in real-world projects such as the mid-semester pitch session with Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. 

As the Columbia College Chicago community reflects on another successful trip to SXSW, it's clear that the experience goes beyond mere entertainment. It's a testament to the institution's commitment to providing students with transformative educational experiences that prepare them for success in their chosen fields. With each passing year, SXSW remains a cornerstone of Columbia College Chicago's experiential learning initiatives, enriching the academic journey of its students and shaping the creative leaders of tomorrow. 

“(Columbia’s South by Southwest trip) is, hands down, the most engaging educational experience that I've ever been a part of,” says Clayton Smith. “Not only do the students get to soak in all the industry genius, brand activations, and cultural joy, but we also get to have an in-person, mid-semester pitch session with Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the most supportive client I've ever worked with.” 

Classes that attended SXSW 2024

AEMMP Record Label Practicum
Music Publishing and Licensing Practicum
Artist Management Practicum
Creative Agency Practicum
Executive Producing for Film and TV

Recent News