Totem Star amplifies and empowers youth voice through music production and performance to strengthen life skills in leadership, civic engagement, and community building. Using the model of a record label, youth with little or no access to arts learning programs compose and record original songs, perform at events they help plan and produce, and receive mentorship from touring artists and music industry professionals.

In 2010, a mobile recording studio based in South Seattle released a compilation created by an unlikely group of new artists: youth just released from juvenile detention. The album was the result of a six-week work training program during which the youth were encouraged to make sense of what was happening to them on the streets. Former Mayor Michael McGinn was so moved by the stories of the youth that he invited them to visit his office at Seattle City Hall, calling his entire staff into the conference room for a listening party.

What was intended to be a one-off project slowly grew into a nonprofit organization through partnerships with organizations like the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration, the Office of Arts & Culture, and the Jubilation Foundation. Totem Star is now a diverse community of young recording artists building life skills in communication, collaboration, and critical thinking through their creative pursuits in music production and performance.

Totem Star. Keeping kids off the streets, in the studio, and on the stage since 2010.


Film Credit: Luke Knecht & C'Mon Team



Daniel Pak

Born and raised on the island of O`ahu, Daniel Pak is the singer, songwriter, and producer of Seattle reggae band Kore Ionz. In 2006, Pak met Thaddeus Turner while producing youth bands at a summer music camp, and in 2010 they co-founded Totem Star to provide opportunities for young people to record and perform music. Pak serves on the Board of Governors for the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Grammys and is a member of the Seattle Music Commission.


Thaddeus Turner

With over 20 years of touring experience under his belt, Seattle native Thaddeus Turner is no stranger to the road. Currently music director for the Grammy award-winning Digable Planets, Turner also performs as Thaddillac, combining the lyricism of soul with the power of rock. As lead guitarist of Maktub and having toured with the likes of Dave Matthews, India Arie, and Stone Gossard, Turner has received glowing praise from Rolling Stone, NPR, and The Seattle Times.


Paul Laughlin
Director of Development and Operations

For more than 20 years, Paul has DJed hundreds of events in Seattle, the Bay Area, and Southern California. He truly feels that DJing changed his life which has led him to always teach anyone who had the desire to learn the art form. Paul has been working with youth for more than 10 years in many capacities, teaching them how to DJ and make beats, as well as providing mentorship and tutoring.

Paul is a 2017-2019 Emerging Leaders of Color Fellow with Rainier Valley Corps.


Matt Sablan
Classroom Assistant

Matt's story begins in Saipan, then Hawai'i and now Seattle. His artist name is Sabyu and he plays guitar, produces music, and wants to make music for a living. Matt was first introduced to Totem Star after attending The Story with Prometheus Brown. He started to volunteer and intern in Spring 2017 and works with us as a classroom assistant through Arts Corps.




Jahlil Kirby
Outreach & Promotional Wizard

Jahlil aka Jawzilla is a lyricist, beat maker, and multi-instrumentalist, a junior at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, and in his 2nd stint as a Totem Star intern through the SPOKES Leadership Board.


Lashaunycee O'Cain
Planning, Coordination, & Execution Legend

Lashaunycee aka kidLIO is a singer/songwriter, lyricist, poet, a junior at NOVA High School in Seattle, and a new Totem Star intern through the SPOKES Leadership Board.


Mirabai Kukathas
Design & Organizational Genius

Mirabai is a storyteller, singer, performing artist, a sophmore at NOVA High School in Seattle, and a new Totem Star intern through the SPOKES Leadership Board.