Global Culture Series: Sandy Meidinger

You may not know her name, but many certainly recognize her work. A driving force for visual artists among the music industry, she's breaking stereotypes associated with female stagehands. Her role as a visual jockey is to stimulate listeners' hidden senses with vivid imaging and prisms that provoke emotions.

Ultimately her mission is "to reduce the stigma around females choosing a career in art." Additionally, to aspire younger females pursuing S.T.E.M. careers. It's a pattern she noticed early on when speaking with other females and wants the public to acknowledge a clear understanding.

"A lot of women don't feel confident enough in their abilities to make a career as a professional artist. They may love the idea of it but feel that a career in marketing will be easier for them to be successful. I fear this leads to burnout since they are not truly passionate about what they are doing. The overall stigma with an artistic career is that you can't earn a living, hence the term "starving artist." This term was "ingrained" as a valid statement ten and twenty years ago. The Internet is now an integral part of daily life. It has created millions of opportunities for everyone, especially women. We see a resurgence in women creating their paths, finding financial success, and even personal fulfillment. I want to help young women see the possibility that this new world has to offer."

S.T.E.M. stands for science, technology, economics, and mathematics, and although Meidinger considers it a vastly different field than the creative arts, she's quick to grasp the connection between the two.

"With technological advancements, the bridge between the two becomes stronger. Also, I believe it stems from different parts of the brain. One side is analytical, the other creative. That's where the wall starts so understanding both is critical."

Meidinger always knew she wanted a career within the creative arts, something that would propel her love of music. Growing up in Southern California, she became familiar with the electronic dance music scene. After attending her first major EDM festival and seeing visuals and music come together, she understood the impacts of being a visual jockey.

"Music is ever-evolving, and it's hard to pinpoint any genre to one thing. Going to raves was appealing because of the community interaction and escape it presented. It helped me deal with a lot of hardships in my teenage years, and it became an outlook that I looked forward to. I remember thinking, 'I wish I could live in a rave', and that's when I discovered VJing. This was exactly what I needed to do."

For an unfamiliar audience, a visual jockey is a base operator of blending imagery with live musical performances. Similar to having the ear of mixing records, vjing goes beyond the switchboard.

"It's my responsibility to help the artist portray their vision. I like to think of myself as a designer. The artist has the vision and the designer makes the vision tangible."

Her domain is everything the light touches or displayed on the LED wall during a performance. On her most recent tour with Illenium, she was promoted to Creative Director, coordinating with each production department, which includes band, lights, lasers, and the intensely popular stage flames.

But just how difficult is it to cue visuals with a live performance? According to Sandy, "it's pretty easy once you know the song and video compilations." She relies on cue points for certain musical accents, much like an orchestral conductor.

"I try to capture many emotions within my work. I am primarily dependent on the feeling I get from the music itself. When I'm creating new visuals for a song, I listen to it over and over. I try to hear every nuance that was put into it and let my mind run free with what I see. I have an internal visual library of symbols that I can apply to different types of sounds. Colors are an efficient way to portray emotions. In my opinion, it is the #1 tool to align with the feeling of the music."

When she is within the creative mindset of the artistic spectrum, she emphasizes that visuals are equally important across the prism. In essence, it comes down to "a viewer's preference of the five senses that appeals to them most."

"I have a constant feeling deep in my body that tells me to create something I can see. Equally, I am inspired by other forms of expression, such as listening to music (hearing), cooking (taste), fashion (touch), and writing (speaking). There are times where I am compelled to express myself with another sense, but it's nothing compared to the feeling I get when I create visuals. Art is using the senses to connect with the life force of the universe."