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.

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Film Credit: Luke Knecht & C'Mon Team