Access to the Arts: Spotlight on Totem Star

access_for_allOn August 1st, King County voters will have a chance to vote for Proposition 1, also known as Access for All. This fund would provide arts, science, and heritage organizations like KEXP with significant new resources to sustain existing programs, greatly expand free and reduced-price access to programming, and create new long-term partnerships with King County public schools and school districts. Access for All would be paid for with a .1% sales tax levy (1 penny on every $10 spent) which would cost the average King County household about $3 per month. If a majority of King County voters approve it, Prop 1 will create a new fund for arts, science, and heritage education and access for residents and public school students. Over the next week, we’ll be spotlighting a few of the other local organizations who will also see an impact from Prop 1, like today’s profile on Totem Star.

Totem Star originated in 2010 as a mobile recording studio based in South Seattle, who put together a compilation created by an unlikely group of new artists: youth just released from juvenile detention. Since then, Totem Star has become a full-fledged nonprofit record label that provides young artists with a safe and encouraging environment to explore their creativity. Based out of the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in West Seattle, they invite kids to compose and record original musical works, perform at events they help plan, promote, and produce, and receive mentorship from touring artists and music industry professionals. We chatted with the organization’s co-founder, Daniel Pak:

Over the past year, what are some of your organization’s highlights in education, events, or programs for Seattle?
Over the last year, our biggest milestone was releasing the Resistance Mixtape on June 16 at our third annual Summer Kickoff youth arts showcase. The mixtape represents the original songs and poems recorded by youth in our studio at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center from December 2013 through April 2017. Coincidentally, we dropped the mixtape just as we hit the 1,000 youth served mark, which was also a huge milestone for us.

On the education front, we’ve been able to partner with the Southwest Interagency Academy to deliver our three core programs — The Studio, The Stage, and The Story — to their students, who receive arts credit towards graduation. There has been so much positive transformation, both individually and in the overall culture of the school. Many of the students, including those about to turn 18 and graduate, have never taken an arts class before discovering Totem Star, which shows the inequity and the arts education gap. Totem Star gives young people the opportunity to express and amplify their musical ideas, both in the studio and on stage, and they receive culturally relevant mentorship from touring artists and music industry pros who come in as guest panelists. Past guests include Prometheus Brown (Blue Scholars), SassyBlack (THEESatisfaction), Justo (The Physics), Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest), and Wil-Dog Abers (Ozomatli).

What key aspect of your org’s work do most people in King County probably not realize?
Every young person who steps into the threshold of our studio at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center receives the same orientation: “Welcome to the family.” And we mean it. Totem Star is all about lifelong relationships with our young recording artists, many of whom we’ve now known for close to ten years and who are coming back to give back. We provide a safe and encouraging space for young people to be creative, tell their stories, and speak their minds on the issues that mean most to them — identity, politics, race, social justice, trauma, and a whole lot more. Music is our common language and culture, and teaching life skills in creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking is our goal. Totem Star is a life-changing experience for our young people, and we are humbled to be entrusted with this work.

What would passage of Proposition 1 mean for Totem Star?
As a small arts organization (our FY 2016-2017 annual operating budget was $91,289 including in-kind donations) with two teaching artists and one staff member (1.5 FTE total) and just two small rooms to do all of our programming, we have accomplished so much with so little, which is just not practical. We’ve developed strong relationships with over 1,100 young people through our studio, stage, and mentorship programs since our start in 2010. If we could increase our annual operating budget by just $25k, we could double the number of youth served by hiring additional teaching artists, adding more studio hours, and adding more events across the city.

To learn more about Totem Star, and how you can help amplify Seattle youth through donation of funds or services, visit their website here. You can also follow them on Twitter, Soundcloud, and YouTube.


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Song of the Day: Pickwick – Light It Up (Let it Burn)

photo by Melissa Wax (view set)

Every Monday through Friday we deliver a different song as a part of our Song of the Day Podcast subscription. This Podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song is “Light it Up (Let it Burn)” by Pickwick, off the 2017 album LoveJoys out now on Small Press Records.

Pickwick – Light It Up (Let it Burn) (MP3) Read More »

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Review Revue: The Raunch Hands – El Rauncho Grande

Raunch Hands

If the gender politics of the Raunch Hands were controversial 30+ years ago (and they were, as you will see below), I’m not surprised you don’t hear them much on the air these days. In fact, I can’t find reference to a single Raunch Hands spin on KEXP in recent years – even on Shake the Shack, which seems surprising. (This guy would have an opinion on the matter, I’m sure.) This might be a loss from a musical standpoint – what I’ve heard seems like a fine example of the genre – but personally, I can live with less music requiring disclaimers for people who are “sensitive about being female.” Read More »

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Thursday Music News

photo by Anton Corbijn

photo by Anton Corbijn

  • Arcade Fire released a brand new single called “Electric Blue” this morning off their forthcoming highly anticipated (and highly promoted) new album Everything Now and then minutes later revealed a video for the single. Directed by Cousin Club, the video focuses on AF’s Régine Chassagne strutting through the streets of New Orleans at the end of an eventful Mardi Gras celebration. Everything Now will be out July 28 on Columbia. Arcade Fire will be in Seattle on Sunday, October 15 at the Key Arena. [ Rolling Stone ]

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Local Artist Spotlight: Genders

photo by Alex Crick

Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring Portland indie rock outfit Genders, who play West Seattle Summer Fest this Saturday night.

Portland’s Genders have been around since 2012, but it feels like they’ve already lived a few different musical lives as a band. From their jangly self-titled debut EP to their fuzzed out Get Lost LP and last year’s dreamy Phone Home EP,  they’ve cemented themselves as an act that embraces change. Whatever effects and approaches they take, what really makes Genders such an awe-inspiring act is how they translate their internal struggles into songs. The same tumultuous experiences they felt on Get Lost come up on Phone Home, albeit with a sense of perseverance over existential dread. We caught up with Genders’ guitarists and vocalists Maggie Morris and Steph Leisy about the band’s ever changing sound, working with local indie rock legends, and their experiences with the Pacific Northwest scene.

The songs on your latest EP, Phone Home, feel much more spacious and dreamy than your previous material. What led to change in musical direction?

Maggie Morris: I think having two additional years of playing together and touring together just will naturally evolve your sound. I think we were just growing up and figuring out what we wanted to do.

Steph Leisy: Also, with our first record, Get Lost we just collected every song we’d written since we started the band. On ‘Phone Home’ we were a little pickier maybe. Read More »

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KEXP Presents: Pianos in the Parks 7/13-7/30

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For a third year, KEXP is proud to once again be part of Pianos in the Parks program, an initiative to bring a little musical magic into hundreds of Seattle and King County’s parks and open spaces.

For those who are new here, or perhaps just never knew, every summer, reclaimed pianos that were previously sitting lonesome and out-of-tune in landfills and recycling centers are given new life by Classic Pianos, and a local artist gives it a fresh new look. The piano is then placed in a public park around the city, available for anyone to play. If you’ve visited KEXP’s Gathering Space, you’ll see our 2015 piano on display to the right of the DJ booth window — you can watch Ben Watt and Bernard Butler play the piano here.

Tonight, Thursday, July 13th at 5:00 PM, Pianos in the Parks kick off the 2017 season at 12th Avenue Arts with performances by classical pianist Lisa Bergman and KEXP fave Tomo Nakayama. At 7:00 PM, the party heads to 11th and Pike for Pike People Street, with music and a dance performance by Xaviera Vandermay. Read More »

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Access to the Arts: Spotlight on Coyote Central

access_for_allOn August 1st, King County voters will have a chance to vote for Proposition 1, also known as Access for All. This fund would provide arts, science, and heritage organizations like KEXP with significant new resources to sustain existing programs, greatly expand free and reduced-price access to programming, and create new long-term partnerships with King County public schools and school districts. Access for All would be paid for with a .1% sales tax levy (1 penny on every $10 spent) which would cost the average King County household about $3 per month. If a majority of King County voters approve it, Prop 1 will create a new fund for arts, science, and heritage education and access for residents and public school students. Over the next week, we’ll be spotlighting a few of the other local organizations who will also see an impact from Prop 1, like today’s profile on Coyote Central.

CoyoteLogoBW_(1)

Formed in 1986, Coyote Central‘s mission is to “challenge young adolescents of every race and socio-economic background to build skills, creative thinking, self-awareness, and social awareness through hands-on projects with professionals in creative fields.” Over the years, they’ve encouraged creativity and self-awareness for over 14,000 middle-school youth of diverse races, economic backgrounds, family situations, and neighborhoods. From animation to glassblowing to playwriting, these kids are given the opportunity to work with adult mentors to learn the skills and tools of the medium, and to realize their own capabilities and passions. We asked Executive Director Claudia Stelle to tell us more about Coyote Central:

all photos by Jess Schwab, Program + Communications Manager at Coyote Central

Read More »

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The Music of Twin Peaks: The Return: Au Revoir Simone


photo by Benjamin Mobley (view set)

[ SPOILERS AHEAD ]

You might still be wondering how Dougie’s ring got into the stomach of a somehow-unaged Major Garland Briggs. Or, what exactly Agent Dale Cooper’s evil doppelgänger may have done to Diane. Or, where the heck is Audrey Horne? But one thing viewers of Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return know for certain: this season’s soundtrack has been straight off a KEXP playlist. Most of the episodes end with a band performing at Bang Bang Bar aka The Roadhouse, the local bar in the city of Twin Peaks.

In an ongoing weekly series of exclusive interviews, KEXP’s resident Twin Peaks expert DJ Morgan will chat with the show’s music director Dean Hurley. Hurley has collaborated extensively with David Lynch on sound design and music, and since 2005, has operated Asymmetrical Studio, Lynch’s recording studio and film dubbing facility located in the Hollywood Hills. Tune in every Monday at 8:00 AM PT to The Morning Show on KEXP, as Morgan and John Richards air excerpts from her chats with Hurley.


This past Sunday, July 9th, the dreamy electro-pop trio Au Revoir Simone made their second appearance of the season. In episode 4, they performed the track “Lark,” and in episode 9, they perform “A Violent Yet Flammable World” — both tracks from the 2007 LP The Bird of Music. In the clips below, Hurley talks about David Lynch’s history with the band, and what he finds so appealing about them.

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Song of the Day: Rainer Maria – Lower Worlds

photo by Shawn Brackbill

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Lower Worlds” by Rainer Maria from the upcoming 2017 album S/T, out August 18th on Polyvinyl Records.

Rainer Maria – Lower Worlds (MP3) Read More »

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Wednesday Music News

photo by Amber Knecht (view set)

  • The recently-renamed psych garage band Oh Sees (fka Thee Oh Sees) are gearing up to release their 19th album Orc. Today they’ve shared their second single “Animated Violence” which is a killer track and makes the anticipation for Orc that much greater. Oh Sees are also auctioning off 14 test pressings, all hand-painted by frontman John Dwyer himself, to raise money for LA’s Downtown Women’s Center. Catch Oh Sees at Neumos on Saturday, September 23 with Arrington De Dionyso. [ Consequence of Sound ]

Read More »

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