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King Street Studio: A Space For Young Artists to Grow

The greater Seattle area has historically had plenty of musical talent like Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Macklemore, and so much more. These big artists have put Seattle on the map over the years, but there is an even larger amount of smaller artists in Seattle working to make a name for themselves. Reaching these heights as a musical artist can be a challenging task that requires a lot of commitment, money, and, most importantly, connections. Luckily, there is an organization based in Seattle that provides studio space for artists to put their music out, mentoring, and opportunities to perform — that organization is called Totem Star.

The studio is located at King Street Station in the International District and is now open to young artists looking to sign up through Totem Star’s website

Totem Star was founded in 2010 by Thaddeus Turner and Daniel Pak. They started by creating a summer work training program for 10 youths recently released from juvenile detention to make music from a small recording studio out of the Rainier Community Center. This program led to the creation of songs that were featured in Totem Star’s first mixtape, “The Reality,” which got the attention of the Seattle Music Commission and Seattle’s mayor at the time, Michael Mcginn. 

Unfortunately, one-third of the youths involved in the program were later rebooked after its completion, which became a turning point in Totem Star’s work.

 “That was the moment where we realized that it was going to be our life work to provide a safe, encouraging, and creative space for young artists to come and take creative risks, receive mentorship, and help jumpstart their musical careers,” said Daniel Pak, co-founder and executive director of Totem Star. 

Over the next three years, Totem Star moved their studio from venue to venue until they eventually got their own space at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle in 2013. Pak recalls the scale of the work that they did in that space. 

“So we built this incredible community there, we worked with 4,000, maybe almost 5,000 recording artists,” he said.

However, in 2018, the board of directors at Totem Star realized that they didn’t have enough space to meet the demands of the young recording artists who wanted to come in, so in late 2018, they began discussing an expansion to a bigger space.

In 2019, Pak was introduced to the idea of becoming an anchor tenant at King Street Station with the help of the Department of Arts & Culture. When artists were surveyed on where they would like a new recording space to be located, the International District and Pioneer Square were top choices. Construction of the studio space started on May 1, 2023, and on Nov. 11, the studio opened its doors for the first time. As of January, the studio is now open for young artists to book sessions Monday through Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. Pak is enthusiastic about the expansion.

“It’s been an amazing ride over the last four years, and here we are,” Pak said.

Photo Courtesy of Daniel Pak

King Street Studio offers a wide range of services, equipment, and programs for young artists. Totem Star provides them with artist mentors who cover several aspects of music recording, such as producing, engineering, songwriting, stage presence, and videography. Whether you want to write lyrics, build a beat, rehearse a song you already have, or record vocals, Totem Star has the resources to put your music out there. 

“We have recording capabilities; we have audio interfaces; we have drums, bass, keys, guitars,” said Pak, listing the studio’s equipment. “We’ve had singles, EP’s, full-length albums come out of Totem Star.”

On top of providing a recording space, Totem Star has a program called “The Stage” where they give artists opportunities to perform at venues and events. In August 2023, Totem Star artists, along with major artists like Lil Yachty and Thundercat, were booked to perform at the “THING” Festival in Port Townsend. Totem Star also hosts three annual showcases for their artists, including Summer Kickback, Endless Summer Jam, and Winter Magic, where they have collaborated with young artists from other programs and organizations like 206 Zulu and The Residency, along with partnerships with Seattle Public Schools, GZ Radio, and KPNW radio. They also offer a space called “Lavender Sessions” for women and artists who identify as LGBTQ+. 

When asked what he wanted to come out of this new studio space, Pak responded, “I want to see their artists jumpstart their careers and take the initiative growing their own business around their music.”

Author

Angelo Harper

Angelo Harper is a first year student at Seattle Central College perusing his AA degree for Journalism. Born in Seattle and raised in Shoreline, He wrote for his high school newspaper for two years before graduating and on the side he likes to write rhymes and perform under the stage name “Lil Fax Machine” where he has collaborated with local artists from the Seattle area on several tracks and a few music videos.

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