The Road to SXSW: Wande Isola



By: Kate Bartick, Selena Depaz, Shannon Smith

Create a Powerpoint, write an essay or make a rap.

These were three options Wande Isola’s biology teacher gave her to explain the process of cellular transport. Isola had never pictured herself as a musician—never mind a rapper, but she saw an easy A in the third option. And so she wrote her first rap, an educational A+.

Three years later, 19-year-old Isola has graduated from rapping about biology and switched her musical focus to her faith, society and political unrest. She has performed at talent shows, church conventions and showcases.

To say the least, she’s grateful she didn’t choose the Powerpoint option. Today, that decision translates into an opportunity to perform at South By Southwest (SXSW).

Isola had long dreamed of being a featured act in SXSW. So much, that it was in fact her deciding factor in choosing to stay local and attend the University of Texas in Austin.

“I was like I’m gonna use this opportunity, I’m gonna figure it out, and I’m gonna be in that showcase,” said Isola.

Applications for artists open a year in advance. Aware of this, Isola took time last March to prepare her tape, write a biography and answer the supplementary questions. However, one day past the deadline, she realized she forgot to submit her package.

Taking a chance, she emailed her late application to a SXSW contact. Ten minutes later, she received a call.

“Okay we’re gonna give you a chance; I don’t know why, but we’re gonna give you a chance,” said the SXSW organizer.

In Isola’s words:


Within the hour, she was enthusiastically placed as an artist into The Kingdom Experience the premiere Christian Gospel music showcase.

But her work isn’t over yet. Unlike many other performers, Isola won’t be recycling her old work. She is working on an original five-song project that will be released at her show.

While Isola struggles with the balance of show preparation and life as a student, she remains excited to be part of such a diverse music festival and expand her network. She hopes to gain respect as an artist, while also connecting with a new fan base.

As for her already loyal fans… they seem just as excited as Isola.

“I can’t wait to see Wande’s music reach that next level. I really believe in her talent and her as a person. South By is gonna be a great platform for her,” said fan, Darien Younce, who was quick to add that “of course [she’s] gonna be right there supporting her.”

Isola is scheduled to perform on Friday, March 18, at 7:40 p.m. and chances are—you won’t hear her rapping about cellular transport.

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